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.
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.