But Scott’s bill, which is sponsored by a host of public safety entities including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, would extend the prohibition of loaded firearms in vehicles to unincorporated areas in counties that don’t currently address the issue, he said.
“Right now, the only way you could outlaw carrying a loaded weapon in unincorporated areas, it has to be a local ordinance, but it creates a patchwork,” Scott said. “What this really does is establish uniformity throughout the state.”
Many of the unincorporated areas that would be affected by the bill are rural areas of the state, where hunting is more common.
“The Legislature probably left that loophole in place for certain rural areas where people want rifles for hunting,” said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “So what this does, it closes the loophole.”
The measure also defines a loaded firearm as a gun with an attached, loaded clip, Scott said. If the clip is not attached to a gun, it’s not considered loaded, he said.
Scott called the bill a natural extension of a comprehensive gun-control measure he ushered through the Legislature in 1999 that made it easier for district attorneys to charge people carrying concealed firearms with a felony.
In 2000, less than 45% of people arrested for possession of a concealed firearm were charged with felonies; in 2003, that number jumped to 61.5%, according to Scott’s office.
The current bill, which passed 3-2 in the committee, also gives discretion to district attorneys to determine whether those carrying a loaded firearm in their vehicle would be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, Scott said.
“This is a very helpful matter to target nefarious people who have an evil intent on the other hands,” Scott said. “Normally if you’re carrying around a loaded gun, you’re ready for action. It’s not like a hunter who goes out into the woods, loads his gun and hunts deer or quail — that’s not what I’m talking about.”