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Guns at Starbucks? Pushing the right to bear arms in public

Gun owners in California have been wearing their handguns in coffee shops and restaurants. The guns are unloaded and legal, but some citizens and police departments are wary.

By Michael B. FarrellStaff writer / February 27, 2010

Brad Huffman, right, and Adnan Shahab carry their unloaded handguns into a Peet's Coffee and Tea store on Saturday, January 9, 2010, in San Ramon, California.

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Small groups of armed Californians have been turning up at cafes and coffee shops with handguns holstered to their belts to raise awareness about gun rights and what they call unfair limits on concealed weapon permits.

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The loosely organized “Bay Area Open Carry Movement” will gather in the Presidio, a national park in San Francisco, on Saturday, just days after a new law took effect allowing weapons to be carried in national parks and wildlife refuges.

David LaTour, a student at San Jose State University, has been carrying his Springfield XD 9mm handgun on his hip for about a month now and plans on attending the event, in which gun rights advocates will be picking up trash in the park and, they hope, talking to anyone interested in state gun laws.

In Pictures: The debate over gun rights

California allows its citizens to openly display and carry unloaded weapons without a permit, but many gun advocates complain that the state is too restrictive when it comes to issuing licenses to carry concealed weapons.

“I looked into concealed carry permits, but unless you’re well-connected it’s impossible to obtain,” says Mr. LaTour. However, he says, “I personally prefer open carry because of the visual deterrent.” (Monitor report: “Cities’ gun restrictions begin to topple”)

Carrying unloaded guns is legal

Safety is the No. 1 reason that many open carry advocates give for displaying their weapons. While they can’t legally carry loaded guns, they can have ammunition as long as it’s not attached to their weapons.

“You can have a functioning loaded weapon in two seconds,” says LaTour.

While the gun owner meet-ups around the Bay Area have been raising awareness about the state’s gun laws, they have also been raising eyebrows. After the groups met at Peet’s Coffee and Tea and the California Pizza Kitchen, both banned weapons from their premises.

Starbucks has also been a favorite spot for open carry groups, prompting the anti-gun violence group the Brady Campaign to launch a petition to convince the coffee chain to ban guns from its shops.

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