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California's Liberal Supreme Court Relies On Old Racist Law To Rule Citizens Need A License To Carry Loaded Gun In Backpack

California's Liberal Supreme Court Relies On Old Racist Law To Rule Citizens Need A License To Carry Loaded Gun In Backpack

Bob Egelko | SF Gate

Carrying a loaded gun without a license is illegal in California even if the weapon is tucked inside a backpack, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a unanimous ruling Monday, the court allowed prosecutors to charge a man with violating California’s open-carry law by carrying a loaded revolver that police said they found in his backpack.

The law makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, to carry a loaded gun “on the person or in a vehicle while in any public place.” It was passed nearly five decades ago to plug a hole in state firearms laws after members of the recently formed Black Panthers began conducting “cop watch” patrols of Oakland neighborhoods while openly carrying guns. At the time, state law did not prohibit the activity. About 30 armed Panthers showed up at the state Capitol in May 1967 to protest the pending legislation.

California also prohibits carrying a concealed handgun outside the home without a license issued by the police chief or the county sheriff, licenses that are unavailable in most populous areas of the state except to police and security guards. A federal appeals court is reviewing a constitutional challenge to that law.

Monday’s case dates from February 2014, when Steven Wade was arrested after Los Angeles police found a loaded revolver in a backpack that he had been carrying and tossed away as officers chased him.

He was charged with a felony because the gun was unregistered, but a judge dismissed the open-carry charge, relying on a state appeals court ruling in 2013 that dismissed charges of carrying weaponized knives that police had found in a defendant’s backpack.

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