Loaded Gun Is ‘on the Person,' Even if in a Backpack

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By Lance J. Rogers

May 16 — A man violated the state law against carrying loaded firearms in public even though his revolver was secreted in a backpack, the California Supreme Court ruled May 9.

The case resolves a split in the lower appellate courts and is consistent with decisions from other states involving suitcases, briefcases and purses.

Ban Extends to All Containers

The court rejected Steven Wade's argument that Cal. Penal Code § 25850 (a) only makes it illegal to carry a gun on the body or in the clothing worn on the body.

“The distinction is untenable,” the court said in an opinion by Justice Ming W. Chin.

“It would require, for example that we treat differently a gun in a zippered pocket of a pair of cargo pants—which would violate the statute—from a gun in a fanny pack tied around the waist—which would not violate the statute—even though, from the perspective of easy access, the gun at the waist might be closer at hand than the gun in the knee pocket of the cargo pants.”

The court found persuasive decisions from Alaska, Oregon and New York that have interpreted similar statutory language and ruled that a person was guilty of carrying concealed firearms even though the weapons were being transported in suitcases, briefcases, bags and purses.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office represented the state. Jean Ballantine, Los Angeles, and David L. Polsky, Ashford, Conn., represented Wade

To contact the reporter on this story: Lance J. Rogers in Washington at lrogers@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bna.com