ALEXANDRIA, VA - APRIL 19: Gun rights groups gather at Fort Hunt Park for an "Open Carry Rally" April 19, 2010 in Alexandria, Virginia. The groups gathered in a National Park area to publicly carry weapons as a demonstration of their constitutional rights to bear arms. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Citing safety concerns, the California Assembly passed a bill Tuesday that would make it illegal to openly carry a gun in public, even if it is unloaded.
Earlier this year, Second Amendment activists converged outside California's Capitol to demonstrate their right to bear arms. See More Images Of The Rally
The bill would make it a misdemeanor to carry an exposed handgun on any public street or in a public place. The bill passed on a 41-25 party-line vote and now moves to the Senate.
Under current California law, gun owners can carry a rifle or handgun in a holster in public if it is unloaded.
Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, who introduced the bill, said guns carried in public, even when not loaded, cause a public safety concern in part because gun owners can carry ammunition.
Supporters said police officers called to a scene where a gun was displayed have to treat the situation as a threat, because they can't immediately tell whether or not a weapon is loaded.
"How is a police officer supposed to know?" asked Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland. "Why would we put our men and women who protect us and provide security for our community in danger to make that split second decision?"
But opponents said bill AB1934 would chip away at the public's right to bear arms and protest peacefully.
"This is a backhanded, even acute way, of implementing gun control," said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Biggs. "I assure you that criminals don't worry about this. They have the guns, and they know how to conceal them, how to use them."
"You are making it official that gang members can carry weapons," Assemblyman Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles said to colleagues who would vote against the measure.
Similar open-carry bans exist in Florida, Illinois, Texas and Washington, D.C., according to the Legal Community Against Violence, a public interest law center based in San Francisco.