Unloaded Open Carry (UOC): What's the Point?

George over at Sleepless in Midland has run across an interesting tidbit: it's legal to openly carry a handgun in California as long as it's unloaded. At first glance, this seems like a senseless legal right. As I mentioned in a comment on George's post, carrying a hammer would actually be a better choice than an unloaded gun in a self-defense situation.

But then I ran across the FAQ on the California Open Carry website, where we learn that it's also legal to carry ammo at the same time; it just can't be loaded in the firearm. This considerably evens the playing field, given the speed with which one can pop a loaded magazine into a pistol, with a little practice.

Of course, laws and lawyers being what they are, the definition of "loaded" is subject to, um, nuances. Read this discussion thread to get a feel for some of those subtleties.

I'd be interested to know how often people exercising their right to UOC in California get stopped and inspected by the police to ensure their firearms aren't loaded, and how strictly the definition is applied.

In Texas, anecdotal evidence suggests that Concealed Carry Permit holders are generally treated with beneficent respect by law enforcement officers (I've never had a chance to prove this myself as I've never had an encounter that required me to present my permit to an officer). The CCP is evidence that the holder has passed a background check, and has been trained not only in firearm use, but also in the legalities that accompany it, with the implicit assumption that holders and peace officers are, so to speak, on the same team. I wonder if California police have the same attitude toward UOC?

My guess is "no," as UOC appears to not be accompanied by any training requirement or background check. In fact, here's what the aforementioned FAQ has to say:
You may also have encounters with law enforcement officers. You must be prepared for this. Know all the laws. Carry the flyers and memos with you. Many Open Carriers carry personal voice recorders to record their police encounters. You may be detained. You legally must allow police officers to inspect your firearm to ensure that it is unloaded (where applicable per 12031). You may even be arrested. This shouldn't happen if you follow all the laws, but from many of the experiences shared on the OpenCarry.org forums, it appears that many police officers do not know or do not understand the law. Remain patient, and if you can, share with them what you know. If however you are placed under arrest, immediately stop talking.

If you are unwilling to accept this risk of false arrest, or are unable to bear the significant financial burden for your legal defense, then don't Open Carry in California.


Having lived in CA for many years and having several peace officers in the family, I can say as a practical matter, there's very little legal open carrying going on out there...and you're right, the police are not fans. There's a fine line between "open carry" and "brandishing" a weapon. And the number of prohibited areas (i.e. basically anyplace where it is illegal to discharge a firearm) makes it near impossible to carry openly and remain legal.

I grew up in Palm Springs, Ca. In the mid 60s, my best friend and I went into Dave’s Jewelry and Loan, a local pawn shop. Dave had a WWII war surplus 1911A1 ($40) that I was interested in. On the wall, there was a big block of wood with a playing card in the middle. Dave picked up the M1911, inserted a magazine, racked the slide and fired a bullet into the playing card. There was an older Jewish lady in the store at the time. She loudly exclaimed “Oy Vey Davit, vhat are you doink?” – that was it – no sirens, no concerned citizens, no nothing. This was on one of the two main streets in Palm Springs. Today, that would have elicited a Swat Team response. Before going into the military, that gun was a constant companion -- I still have that 1911A1.

It’s unfortunate, but the progressive influence in CA has infiltrated the Fed Gov – Pelosi, Waxman, Boxer, Feinstein – Calif. Politicians have done such a wonderful job in their own state that they are sure the rest of the US would benefit from their social/environmental insights and fiscal responsibility.

Sorry for the political content.


Since you mentioned hammers, I felt a need to comment on this. California law contains a certain nuance that to many, is simply insane. Carrying a *loaded* and *concealed* firearm is a ***misdemeanor***, whereas a blunt object such as a sap, hammer, baseball bat, baton, or anything of that like, can be and routinely is a ***felony*** under PC 12020

California is truly insane.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on February 28, 2010 5:29 PM.

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