Effective January 1st, 2012, California Assembly Bill 144 has made it illegal to openly carry unloaded firearms in most areas of the Golden State. This law was passed to assuage the tender sensibilities of people who understandably become terrified at the site of any person who is not obviously a member of law enforcement, and is openly toting a holstered handgun, loaded or not (because – first rule of gun safety – you always have to assume that a gun is loaded).
This new law coincides with my husband and I dredging up vintage episodes of the television series, “Have Gun – Will Travel”, on the streaming video service.
If you’re not familiar with the series, “Have Gun – Will Travel” (aired Sept. 1957 through April 1963) it’s set in the post-Civil War United States, and follows the personal and professional life of the character known as ‘Paladin’, a hired gun.
Paladin resides in the Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, dresses like an eastern dandy, drinks good whiskey, and purportedly spends his free time nailing numerous women. Paladin is an avid patron of the opera, and often quotes Shakespeare on the fly. He has working knowledge of leading historical military coups, and world conquerors, such as Alexander the Great.
In Paladin’s Old West, blood and sweat have strange honor. His fee is usually one thousand dollars a job, though he’s not above taking ten grand to rout out a renegade with a price on his head. While working under the gun, he dresses in executioner-black, though he strives for intellectual resolution to most conflict. There are the occasional contracts wherein Paladin is forced by the violent nature of mankind to use his gun. Somehow he’s always a fraction of a second faster than even the most proficient professional killer.
And then there are the fist fights, which I can never figure out – why hit a man, and then prop him up, so he can hit you back? I imagine if David Carradine’s character, Kwai Chang Caine, ambled along in the midst of some brawl instigated by one of Paladin’s nemeses, Caine would break up all comers with a flick of the wrist.
What’s pertinent to the current method of gun control in California is an episode aired in season one, “The Five Books of Owen Deaver”, when Paladin helps the son of a former friend. The son, Owen Deaver, has taken his late father’s place as sheriff of a small, rough western town. Deaver, who was schooled in the East, brings back with him five books on civil law from the city of Philadelphia, and uses these books to enforce new civilized statutes in his new position as sheriff.
One of the by products of his Philadelphia-style law, is that Deaver confiscates firearms from all citizens living in or visiting town, leaving them, as Paladin suggests, defenseless against criminals who don’t care to follow the law, unable to defend themselves from thieves, killers and marauders.
This episode is an early hallmark of a political stance against gun control. It’s simple math; really, you prevent model citizens from owning firearms, through enforced attrition, while criminals, who own no such compulsion to adhere to the law, skulk around fully armed with Glock 19s.
I have the rare opportunity to see gun control from both sides of the fence, living both in the San Francisco Bay Area (defined as a “Blue” or Democratic – e.g., “Liberal” region), and in Susanville, a rural town in northeastern California (“Red”; a GOP realm). These two areas are polar opposites in more than simple geography.
Case in point: My particular county, Santa Clara, is governed by the Bay Area Air Quality Control District. Due to the concentration of population and cold weather inversion during wintertime, we have what’s known as “Spare the Air” days. If a resident chooses to burn a wood fire during a “Spare the Air” day, and after an initial letter of warning from Bay Area Air Quality Control, they can be fined $400.00 for a first offense.
In Lassen County, population 35,000 (which includes the inmate population of several prisons), most households burn wood for heat out of simple low-cost necessity. Up in the hills above Susanville, we burn wood in our woodstove; our neighbor across the street does it, and so do scores of other households in the subdivision at the foot of Roop Mountain. But all of that smoke it eaten up by the bitter wind, and the enormity of the sky. And I seriously doubt any of our Lake Forest neighbors would complain, because they would be the pot calling the kettle black.
Similarly, there are stark differences in the arena of gun control.
In the Bay Area, where upwards of 100 people each year are killed by gun violence in Oakland alone, there is an acute sensitivity to firearms of any sort. Events such as the 101 California Street massacre in San Francisco serve as catalyst for regulations on the size of cartridge clips and magazines.
More recently, the Second Amendment argument, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutional right to bear arms, has spawned the bold Open Carry movement right in the heart of Paranoia Central. Prior to January 1st, 2012, you might see twenty people converging in orderly fashion on a Starbuck’s in Silicon Valley. Peaceful droves of Valley engineers and programmers, decked out with unloaded Smith & Wesson .45s – and the ubiquitous Glock of varying calibers – seated in the fog-muted Bay Area sunlight, sipping lattés and cappuccinos, and speaking in low voices about the NRA, Second Amendment, and wistfully praying the late Charleton Heston would rise from the dead, so he could be installed as the next U.S. President.
I would characterize the general Open Carry movement as being comprised of safe and sane people. I’m positive very few of them suffer from Small Penis Syndrome.
The reason I can say this so confidently, is because when in Lassen County, and prior to January 1st, 2012, we Open Carried while in the back country, on National Forest lands and BLM acreage. Whether while hiking, or riding dirt bikes or mountain bikes, it is most logical to carry a sidearm –unloaded, of course – and two sets of speed-loaders. You can’t understand the reasoning, until you’ve actually seen a mountain lion or two, or the remnants of a lion kill; and then you start to think that your soft pink flesh and ineffectual method of defense (peg-like teeth and flimsy nails) are no match for razor-sharp claws on all four feline feet, canines designed to pierce a deer’s spinal cord, and camouflage that ensures you’ll never see the lion coming. I will happily add in the black bear, and of course, the element nobody wants to mention, White Supremacists. The latter is quite prevalent in Lassen County. If you doubt me, just consult the Southern Poverty Law Center for the latest statistics. But, to be quite clear, I’m a wimp about the lions.
Sadly, I believe that the Open Carry Movement in California mobilized the same type of fear in urbanites and suburbanites; a terror or reprisal or insanity, not of a lion zoning in for the easiest prey, but killing that makes no sense in the scheme of what we like to hold to the light as ‘normalcy’. Most people cannot comprehend what coalesced in the mind of the madman who terrorized the people in 101 California Street, or what it means to live in the harder-bitten areas of Oakland or Richmond. We ally ourselves as pacifists, who abhor the thought of taking a human life, regardless of the circumstances.
So, now gun control has chased up to our front door, though I’m relieved to report that it hasn’t crossed the threshold. The new restrictions on Open Carry in the State of California exclude a person’s castle. Loaded open carry of long guns and handguns is still legal, if you are “in your own home, temporary residence, campsite (unless otherwise prohibited), place of business, private property, and in areas of unincorporated territory where shooting is not prohibited, including most areas within National Forests and BLM lands”.