Firearms: Open carry ok as long as it is unloaded?

Maybe this should be a GQ question but given it is about guns figure by default it makes it a GD thread.

To any who have participated in various gun control threads with me it is no secret I am not a fan of guns. That said for this I am just asking some questions and not taking a stance (yet at least) on one side or the other of this particular angle on gun control.

What prompted me to ask this was this article about Starbucks allowing open carry in its stores:

A couple of things.

  1. If it is legal to open carry can they make it illegal to open carry with a loaded weapon? What are your opinions (one way or the other) that a law could make it fine to carry a gun but only an unloaded gun? Can a merchant (as a semi-private entity) make its own rules on this or do they have to follow the law so if loaded weapons are allowed it is not up to them to impose greater restrictions?

  2. I seem to recall when a guy carrying a weapon to a Town Hall Meeting last year was asked if it was loaded his response was something like, “Why would anyone carry an unloaded gun?” By which I think he meant an unloaded gun is not so much a gun than an unwieldy club. On the flip side the article above says the guy can load is weapon in seconds suggesting it matters little if it is loaded or unloaded. So which is it? Unloaded no big deal or if allowed to carry then by default it should be loaded?

Yes, at least in my state (NC) a merchant can impose greater restrictions, all the way up to not allowing weapons on the premises at all.

What do you mean by “semi-private”? When you step onto the private property of a merchant, they have a lot of leeway to say how you have to behave or they can kick you off their property. Have you ever seen a merchant with a “No food or drink” sign despite the fact that food and drink are perfectly legal to carry on your person?

By the way, it is not Starbucks requiring them to carry the weapons unloaded. That is the open carry law of CA (though it is a bit more nuanced, the bottom line is that it seems illegal to open carry a loaded weapon in all but the most rural areas of CA). Starbucks is letting them do all that is allowed by the law, though other merchants may not.

Your article says some states have already done this.

You’re sort of asking people to justify statements made by people with different agendas for different reasons, which could be unfair. But I’ve seen open carry advocates on this site take the position that there is no point in carrying an unloaded gun because the whole point of carrying the gun is to be prepared for an emergency. If the gun isn’t loaded, you’re not prepared, and in theory you could be shot before you have time to take out your gun and load it.

Just as some background - because I don’t have much of an opinion on this issue - the Town Hall protestor (with the “water the tree of liberty” sign) was William Kostric, and his words were “Who’d be silly enough to carry an unloaded firearm?”

Incidentally it sounds like Kostric had a 9 millimeter and the guy in the Starbucks article (Jon Schwartz) was carring a Smith & Wesson .45-caliber. I’m guessing those two guns can be loaded at pretty much the same speed depending on where the ammunition is, but I really don’t know.

A merchant is not the same kind of “private” that my house is.

If I hated black people (I don’t, just an example) I can refuse to let them in my house. I can even tell them it is because they are black. The government cannot force me to let them in.

A merchant however cannot do the same thing.

This website tracks the laws across the nation:

In regards to loaded / unloaded - if I can carry a loaded magazine, I can slap that in pretty fast. It will take me from 1-5 seconds to load (I don’t practice - someone who regularly does this can go MUCH faster). However, I prefer revolvers and even with speed loaders those take longer to load.

This movement is there to make carrying a public, normal thing instead of something secret and hidden. I don’t know if it will do any good, but that is at least the mindset.

Allowing open carry of unloaded firearms looks to me like the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, if there is actually some legitimate value to be had in carrying a gun, it’s negated by the gun being unloaded. On the other hand, a gun can be used for intimidation even if unloaded, and someone planning on shooting up the place could still get in unimpeded, because the loaded gun he’d be carrying would look pretty much like an unloaded one. And it perpetuates the idea that an unloaded gun is safe, which can be a dangerous assumption to make (the first rule of gun safety is to always assume that every gun is loaded).

It seems to me that you’d be much better off either banning guns outright, or allowing them to be loaded.

IIRC, some states have laws regarding carrying rifles and shotguns during hunting season, which protect being able to carry your long guns into town with you but require you to unload them.

But as said upthread, an unloaded handgun is essentially a colossal bluff. I suspect it’s an attempt to have a carry law in theory but not in practice.

Carrying an unloaded firearm, when everyone KNOWS you’re carrying an unloaded firearm, is a colossally stupid idea. It simply invites people who ARE carrying loaded weapons and who have a proclivity toward robbery to relieve you of your weapon without risk.

Just carry some gold coins dangling from your belt if you’re that stupid.

I think Chronos hit one out the park as to why its a stupid idea and probably :slight_smile: why thats exactly what some legal systems came up with.

Its even worse than that “carry a concealed weapon (and have a permit to do so) but accidently show it and be in deep shit” chestnut.

Yeah, i’m no huge fan of firearms, but this just seems like a pointless but superficially reasonable “compromise” that’s going to make no-one happy. It really looks like a terrible idea.

I agree with this - further, I can picture the potential for increased accidents and confrontations as employees demand to know whether a gun is loaded or not, and then out comes the gun and they pop out the magazine or work the slide…and just think about the burden on an employee having to quiz customers about it.

IMO you just generally do not want to be screwing around with your gun in a mixed public setting unless you absolutely have to. I also would not openly carry an unloaded gun unless it was for some very specific limited purpose, like taking to a firearms class (some firearms classes mandate that your gun be in its holster and unloaded until you’re actually on the range, or else you’re kicked out of the class). Hell, I won’t even concealed carry unloaded as it’s sort of defeating the purpose (and in my State the law makes no distinction between loaded/unloaded CCW).

Unloaded open carry (UOC) is not a compromise between open carry and no carry. The history of CA regarding open carry surrounds the Black Panthers entering the Sacramento capitol building with loaded rifles protesting - get this - banning of carrying loaded weapons! The legislature promptly made it illegal to carry loaded.

CA does not have a right to keep and bear arms provision in its constitution, one of a handful of states that do not. Currently there is no federal protection of the 2nd ammendment applied to the states (pre McDonald). Because CA does not have this right, the State legislature is free to restrict gun possession and carry.

It is through a quirk of the law that only loaded carry is prohibited. State law is silent on unloaded carry, therefore it is presumptivley legal. In many cases, people who UOC do so both to exercise their rights, and as a form of protest/political statement. The goals range from raising awareness and education, trying to normalize the appearance of sidearms, and to force the legislature to allow concealed carry. The idea behind the last point is that local police will be responding to so many Man with a Gun calls and people will be so uncomfortable, there will be enough political will to allow people to carry concealed.

Currently CCW in CA is “may” issue, meaning the local sheriff decides who gets to carry. If you live in a county with a sheriff open to the idea, you are allowed. If not, sorry no dice. One idea behind UOC is to push for less discriminatory CCW laws.

Wait, I don’t follow the order of events, here: Did the law against carrying loaded come before or after the Black Panthers incident?

Apparently, the answer to that question is : Yes.

From the wiki:

“On May 2, 1967, the California State Assembly Committee on Criminal Procedure was scheduled to convene to discuss what was known as the “Mulford Act”, which would ban public displays of loaded firearms. Cleaver and Newton put together a plan to send a group of about 30 Panthers led by Seale from Oakland to Sacramento to protest the bill. The group entered the assembly carrying their weapons, an incident which was widely publicized, and which prompted police to arrest Seale and five others. The group pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of disrupting a legislative session”

The protest at the capitol was on May 2. The Mulford Act was passed by the legislature June 28. It was later signed by then Govenor Reagan all in 1967. The law aimed at disarming the Black Panthers and their safety patrols of Oaklnd affected all people of CA.

This is one reason some gun rights advocates do not support UOC. They believe it does more harm than good in an environment without RKBA protections. If McDonald prevails, then there will be a flood of lawsuits challenging most of CA gun laws. Presumably some of these will be aimed at the legal method carry and to define the meaning of the word “bear” in the context of the 2nd ammendment.

Another note regarding the “may issue” CCW laws of CA. They stem in large part from the desire to prohibit certain races, Chinese and Latinos, from being armed. The law that is currently in force originated in 1923. From the SF Chronical, July 15, 1923: