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Does open-carry gun ban make California safer?

California Gov. Jerry Brown cited concerns of law enforcement in signing a bill to ban open carry in the state. But critics say there's little evidence that stronger gun control leads to lower crime.

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Gov. Jerry Brown's decision to ban the open carrying of handguns puts California squarely against the national tide at a time when many other states have acted to ease gun laws.

In announcing that he had signed the bill Monday, Governor Brown – a Democrat who owns three guns – said he was acting upon the advice of law-enforcement officials, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

“For law enforcement officers and community members, any type of weapon being carried, openly or concealed, could appear as a threat to their well-being and is regarded as a public safety threat,” said Sheriff Baca in a statement.

That rationale puts the California ban at the center of the national debate on the links between gun laws and public safety.

Forty-two states allow the open carrying of guns in public. California Assembly Bill 144, by contrast, carries a penalty of up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine for anyone who carries a weapon openly in public, though hunters, peace officers, and gun-show attendees are exempt. It takes effect Jan. 1.

But do stronger gun-control laws make a society safer – as Baca suggests – or less safe? It is not clear from statistics whether gun control has lessened crime in the states that have implemented stronger laws, say critics.

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