SAN LEANDRO -- Russ Allen drove to San Leandro on Saturday to attend a rally protesting the recent passage of Assembly Bill 144, the state's ban on carrying unloaded handguns in public.

The Sacramento resident said he became aware of California's open-carry law only recently following a robbery in his apartment complex.

"I disagree with what they're trying to do," said Allen, who had an unloaded Smith and Wesson .40 caliber handgun strapped to his belt. "The 2nd Amendment clearly states we have a right to bear arms and it shall not be infringed."

Allen joined about 30 others at the rally, which was organized by the gun rights advocacy group Responsible Citizens of California.

The group says that as a result of the ban on unloaded handguns, which goes into effect Jan. 1, the only recourse is to carry so-called long guns such as rifles and shotguns, which have not been affected under AB 144.

Many who attended the rally carried a rifle or shotgun strapped to their shoulder. With the occasional supportive horn honking from passing motorists, they gathered at the corner of Hesperian Boulevard and Bayfair Drive in San Leandro from about noon to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Some wore a T-shirt with a photo of long gun and the caption: "This is your only option for self defense. I preferred carrying a handgun but the governor said no."

Alameda resident Eugene Abellon said the new law banning open-carry handguns violates the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution.


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"They're targeting law-abiding citizens, but not criminals," he said.

San Francisco resident J.N. Garrett II suggested the law be amended to give police the right to check the weapon to see if it's loaded as well as identification to "find out if you're a felon or a gangbanger."

The open carry group claims that the right to carry unloaded firearms has been around since California was incorporated and that no open-carry advocate has ever committed a violent crime.

"The 2nd Amendment is alive and well in the rest of the country. In California, it's eroded," said Yih-Chau Chang, a Dublin resident and the group's press secretary.

Adnan Shahab, the president of the organization, said the recent legislation may create a greater advocacy for more lax concealed-carry laws for gun owners.

He said he has concealed weapons permits from other states, though in California it's far harder to achieve. Typically, only those politically connected or the wealthy can acquire concealed gun permits from county sheriffs or police chiefs, he said.

The open-carry laws had allowed average citizens to carry guns, and concealed-carry may be the only option to pursue as a result of the legislation.

"This is a blow to us, taking away our right to carry handguns but we're not going to roll over," said Shahab, who is running for California Assembly in the 20th District.