Governor Brown Signs Bill Allowing Guns Inside of Gun-Free School Zones

For the past six years, I have been in Federal court fighting to overturn California’s existing bans on openly carrying firearms for the purpose of self-defense and for other lawful purposes.

California Governor Brown has signed two laws, Assembly Bill 7 and 24, which separately or together, have pretty much tied the hands of the 9th circuit court of appeals, not that the judges’ hands weren’t tied already.

Either there is no right to keep and bear arms even one inch outside the doors to our homes or there is. If there is, then I win.

Up until now I have remained silent on these two bills, other than urging a veto for each of the bills, because I didn’t want the powers that be to catch on and realize they made a similar mistake in AB-424 that they made years ago in an early version of AB-144, the California ban on openly carrying unloaded handguns which Governor Brown signed into law in 2011.

That early version of AB-144 exempted handguns carried “within” 1,000 feet of a K-12 public or private school, but not beyond the 1,000-foot perimeter. Beyond the 1,000-foot gun-free school zone AB-144 made it illegal to openly carry an unloaded handgun.

Today, Governor Brown signed AB-424 into law. Yesterday, he had signed AB-7 into law. The author of AB-7 said that the purpose of AB-7 was to ban Open Carry statewide and sure enough, you won’t find any exception, and certainly not a self-defense exception, in AB-7. The February 27, 2017, version of AB-7 removed the various exemptions from existing law (PC26405) which included exemptions for hunting and target shooting. Note that PC26405 was not deleted from the California Penal Code, just the language from the bill stating “Except as otherwise provided in Section 26405…”

Which leaves us with an amended law in which the legislature intentionally deleted the language providing for exemptions which has no exemptions and which applies state-wide when it goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

However, AB-424 does provide for certain exceptions. One is found in PC26405(n) and it exempts the Open Carry of unloaded long guns if one is inside of the 1,000-foot gun-free school zones which extend from the grounds of California’s public and private K-12 schools created by California Penal Code section 626.9 (The California Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995).

AB-424 says “Section 26400 [Unloaded Long Gun Open Carry ban] does not apply to, or affect, the carrying of an unloaded firearm that is not a handgun in any of the following circumstances:”

“(n) Within a school zone, as defined in Section 626.9, if that carrying is not prohibited by Section 626.9.”

Section 626.9 never prohibited the carriage of long guns, loaded or unloaded. Even as late as 1995 when the bill was enacted, California hunters were still a voting block to be feared. So long guns were exempted, just as hunters were (and remain) exempted from the 1967 ban on openly carrying loaded firearms in public.

Section PC626.9(c)(2) (gun-free school zone law) states in relevant part: “This section does not prohibit or limit the otherwise lawful transportation of any other firearm, other than a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed on the person, in accordance with state law.”

Section 626.9 does not prohibit the Open Carry of an Unloaded Long Gun in the gun-free zone extending 1,000 feet from a K-12 public or private school. It didn’t before the passage of AB-7 and now thanks to the passage of AB-424, it still doesn’t.

If AB-424 had not been signed by Governor Brown then it would have become illegal to openly carry unloaded long guns within 1,000 feet of a K-12 public or private school as of January 1, 2018.

Curiously, AB-424 also contains this line “26370. Section 26350 does not apply to, or affect, the open carrying of an unloaded handgun within a school zone, as defined in Section 626.9, if that carrying is not prohibited by Section 626.9.”

I have no idea why PC26370 is there given that PC626.9 designates what places within 1,000 feet of a K-12 public or private school where it is legal to carry a handgun, regardless of whether or not the handgun is loaded or unloaded.

In any event, as of January 1, 2018, it will be legal to openly carry unloaded firearms within 1,000 feet from the grounds of a K-12 public or private school along with matching ammunition in your possession but it will be illegal to openly carry unloaded firearms, with or without matching ammunition, outside of the California’s Gun-Free School Zones.

And now I have a motion and supplemental brief to write and file in regards to these two new bills in my California Open Carry lawsuit, Charles Nichols v. Edmund Brown, Jr., et al

As I anticipated that California would one day expand its Open Carry bans, I structured my lawsuit accordingly. If I win on appeal then California’s Open Carry bans are struck down everywhere except for “sensitive” public places, which are places California’s Open Carry bans don’t apply as California has separate laws “regulating” the carriage and possession of firearms in schools and government buildings.

The court of appeals notified me and the state’s attorney who is representing Governor Brown and California Attorney General Becerra in my California Open Carry lawsuit that oral argument is being considered for February and to notify the court of any unavoidable scheduling conflicts.

I have kept my dance card open. The state’s attorney filed a letter to the court saying that he does not have any “unavoidable conflicts” but prefers that oral argument take place in February or March.