Don't Prove Political Point While Drunk

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    This could be worth $50 at your local church.

    A San Bruno man approached a police officer he recognized back in February and asked, "Jack, want to check me?," referring to the holstered  gun on his hip.
         
    The officer checked the gun and found that it was unloaded -- then arrested the man for public intoxication.

    California law allows registered gun owners such as 29-year-old Christian Gonzalez to carry their handguns in public - even while drunk - as long as the weapons are holstered and unloaded.

    Gonzalez, who pleaded not guilty to the public intoxication charge last Monday, is part of a movement across the Bay Area hoping to normalize  firearms in public that seems to be making small but steady progress.

    A meeting in January in Livermore brought 12 people carrying  holstered, unloaded guns to a Panama Red Coffee Company store.

    Six gun carriers showed up to a meeting at Peet's Coffee and Tea  in San Ramon, and in February, about 60 people came to the Buckhorn Grill in  Walnut Creek to enjoy an armed meal.

    A week later, about 20 people went to a Starbucks in San Leandro with guns on their hips.

    California's penal code prohibits the carrying of concealed and/or loaded firearms in California, but guns that are unconcealed and unloaded can  be carried in most places.

    School zones and government buildings are off limits, but as long  as the ammunition is not attached to the gun in any way, licensed gun owners  can carry their weapons in their holsters in public.

    Locally, the Bay Area Open Carry movement is a loose affiliation  of individuals who meet about once a month to advocate for gun rights.

    Most participants say they openly carry a firearm, or "open  carry," to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms, or to protect  themselves and deter crime.

    One participant said a primary goal of the meetings is to  normalize firearms and encourage the public to support loosening California's  relatively stringent gun laws.

    "It's a battle worth fighting," said Walter Stanley, a 32-year-old  political consultant from Livermore who attends the open carry meetings. "It's something I feel so strongly and so positively about. I want other people to have the option to carry firearms."

    Stanley said he openly carries an unloaded weapon about 80 percent of the time.

    He said he has been fascinated with guns since he was about 21,  and although it's an expensive hobby, it's a rewarding one. He had never heard of open carry laws until a local television station ran a news story  about an individual in Sunnyvale last November.

    Stanley spent about a month researching the laws, and once he  finally felt comfortable, he began openly carrying a handgun in January.

    Soon after, he and a group of open carriers decided to meet at the Panama Red Coffee Company in Livermore, and they've been getting together since.

    "It definitely makes me feel safer," Stanley said of carrying an  unconcealed weapon. "I just feel more comfortable carrying a firearm for my protection."

     Stanley has never been involved in a violent crime, and his job does not put him in danger.

    He said he would not use his weapon to stop a crime unless he thought his life were in danger, and even then he wouldn't want to have to live with killing somebody.

    But he thinks just having the weapon is enough of a deterrent to crime to make it worth carrying, but this is exactly why many opponents recommend gun owners avoid carrying them in public. Citizens with permits to own and carry weapons know how to use their firearms, but they don't have  police training to accompany that knowledge.

    Several Bay Area law enforcement agencies have discouraged residents from openly carrying firearms, saying it can put gun carriers at  risk and make police work difficult.

    Incidents with open carriers could escalate because it's difficult to know who is a threat and who is simply exercising the right to carry an  unloaded gun, according to police.