The Jan. 8 shooting massacre at a Tucson mall is giving new impetus to a drive to make California eateries gun-free zones. State chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence yesterday announced a new initiative to make the Golden State's restaurants and coffee shops places where so-called open carry of firearms is prohibited.
First stop on the Brady Campaign's agenda: Picketing on Jan. 20 at Brooklyn Brick Oven Pizza in Manhattan Beach, where advocates of open carry are planning to congregate. It's part of the CA Brady Campaign's "Demand Gun-Free Dining in California!" They've lobbied the California Restaurant Association to urge its members to ban guns, and they're asking concerned citizens to download a gun-free pledge, available with anti-open carry signage at the organization's website, and demand that owners of their neighborhood eateries (along with other retail establishments) sign it.
Open carry ― i.e., toting a firearm in public spaces ― is legal in California, as long as the gun is unloaded and holstered (unless you're a uniformed police officer). The issue made news a year ago, when at least one member of the group Bay Area Open Carry ― meeting at a Peet's in Livermore ― was frisked by a police officer. That spurred Peet's to prohibit open carry at its coffee shops, followed by the California Pizza Kitchen in Walnut Creek, where open carry advocates were planning to rally. But Seattle-based Starbucks has refused to ban firearms in its cafes, which have become places where open carry advocates gather, firearms strapped to thighs, waists, and shoulders.
"They looked like a gang with those guns," says Shikha Hamilton, vice president of the statewide Brady Campaign and head of its San Mateo and Santa Clara county chapters. Hamilton has protested at open carry gatherings in the East Bay.
"I didn't know if those guns were loaded or not loaded. There were patrons of Starbucks who were very scared, especially moms with kids ― they turned around and left. As mothers we work so hard to keep violence out of our kids' lives. We don't want them to see guns while they're eating dinner or drinking hot chocolate."
Though the Shaadzee Bakery Cafe in Pleasant Hill and the Buckhorn Grill chain (two locations in San Francisco) has also banned open carry, the East Bay's Nation's Giant Hamburgers chain has so far refused, according to the CA Brady Campaign website.