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Where it’s illegal to carry a loaded gun in public

The great state of California

California’s Mulford Act prohibited anyone outside of law enforcement officers (and others explicitly authorized to do so) from carrying loaded firearms in public. It was enacted largely in response to the militant activities of the Black Panther Party.

What’s more, the bill was written by a Republican legislator, California Assemblyman Don Mulford of Oakland, and was passed with the full backing of Republican governor Ronald Reagan and the National Rifle Association.

The bill was introduced in April 1967, six weeks after it had been reported that an armed group of Black Panthers acting as an escort for Malcolm X’s widow, Betty Shabazz, were involved in tense, nonviolent confrontations with airport security officers and police in San Francisco.

In an article in Ramparts magazine, Sol Stern reported, “Local cops were dumbfounded to discover that there was no law which prohibited the Panthers from carrying loaded weapons so long as they were unconcealed, a legal fact which the Panthers had carefully researched.”

In a statement quoted by Associated Press, a Panther spokesman said, “The cops asked us what we were doing and we told them. ‘We’re exercising our constitutional rights and we’re not going to take any bull.’”

The Mulford Act was designed to impose a limit on those very constitutional rights in the state of California, establishing that “every person who carries a loaded firearm on his person while on a public street, or in a public place within any city or in a vehicle while in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city or in an inhabited area of unincorporated territory is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

The law is still on the books.

[With thanks to Aristides Pappidas]

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