PLEASANT HILL (BCN) — A group that advocates the right to openly carry unloaded guns will be protested by opponents during a meeting and toy drive at a restaurant in Pleasant Hill on Saturday.

Contra Costa Open Carry, a chapter of the group Responsible Citizens of California, is holding a meeting at a Nation’s Giant Hamburgers restaurant on Saturday afternoon, organizer Alany Helmantoler said.

California gun owners can openly carry guns as long as they’re unloaded, holstered, and are not carried near schools or government buildings.

The open carry movement, whose members say they aim to inform the public about Second Amendment rights and the importance of self-defense, regularly holds meetings at restaurants around the Bay Area, Helmantoler said.

Saturday’s meeting was meant to be low-key, but then Karen Arntzen got a Google Alert about it a couple of weeks ago.

Arntzen works with the Contra Costa County chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a group that advocates strengthening gun control laws, and said that when she found out about the meeting, she decided to organize people to picket it.

“This is a public health and safety issue, carrying a lethal weapon into a restaurant where children and families are dining,” she said. “This is a very misguided attempt to exercise a right that really doesn’t make any sense in society today.”

Arntzen said she expects about 10 people to gather in protest outside the restaurant.

Helmantoler, a Concord resident who works as a lobbyist, including on gun rights, said she disagrees with Arntzen’s opinion of the open carry movement, and the tactics the Brady Campaign uses against it.

“They really need to redirect their resources, and focus on crime and criminal activity instead of worrying about individuals obeying the law like us,” she said.

“This is a time when we’re reducing public services in California, and there’s an increase in crime. This is not the time to worry about individuals who are just trying to protect themselves.”

Arntzen criticized the open carry group for organizing a toy drive, claiming they only added that aspect of the meeting once they found out there was going to be a protest.

“I feel it’s a phony charitable gesture, and particularly insidious to hide their guns behind Toys for Tots,” she said. “Toys and guns don’t mix.”

However, Helmantoler said there were already plans for a toy drive in early November, and organizers decided to publicize that aspect of the event “when we saw too many people were coming, and with the media.”

She said an allied group, Bay Area Open Carry, is also holding a street cleanup event on the same day in San Francisco. That event will take place on the Embarcadero near Pier 43.

“We’re not hiding. Most of us, prior to coming into open carry, gave back to the community,” she said. “I’ve been volunteering for my entire life.”

The Brady Campaign contacted the Nation’s chain of restaurants asking it to ban the guns, but the group has not heard from company officials whether a ban will be instituted, Arntzen said.

She said similar actions in the past have led to bans at Peet’s Coffee & Tea, California Pizza Kitchen, Buckhorn Grill, and other businesses.

Helmantoler said her group held a rehearsal of sorts at the restaurant on Nov. 14 and had no issues with the guns.

“We’re not interested in causing any kind of trouble for anybody, including businesses,” she said. “I wish they’d stop harassing these businesses; they don’t deserve it.”

Helmantoler said she encourages dialogue between the two sides and hoped they can come to some sort of agreement on the issue of open carry.

“We have same ideas in mind. We don’t want guns in the hands of criminals, guns in the hands of mental patients,” she said. “We agree with them on a lot of these concepts.”

She said organizers expect around 40 people at the event, which is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Nation’s restaurant located at 1900 Contra Costa Blvd. in Pleasant Hill.

(© CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)


Comments (9)
  1. Zack Debarco says:

    I am not anti gun but anti gun-nut. I am all for personal ownership of handguns and rifles and shotguns used for hunting, but like the idiots who think it’s cool to own assault rifles, these open carry folks scare me. I am waiting for a non open carry person to confront them with a loaded weapon and take their unloaded gun from them. I also think there are going to be idiots who will be carrying a visible gun and it will be loaded. WHAT IS A COP TO DO?!!
    As a citizen, these folks scare me with their actions.

  2. Davelegs says:

    First off, an unloaded gun is NOT A WEAPON! If you are going to carry a weapon, it had better be loaded, otherwise it is useless! I agree that the Brady Group needs to refocus their efforts to enforce our current laws, not make more, that will also not be enforced! I also agree that Open Carry groups are wasting their time. It is stupid to announce to the whole world that you are carrying an unloaded gun. You are asking for some criminal to take it from you and use it illegally.

  3. brandywine3 says:

    I agree with Davelegs, I’ve had about enough of these f*ing do gooders. When guns are outlawed……only outlaws will have guns (that are loaded)

  4. contra Costa Open Carry says:

    Thank you, CBS for a well written and fair article. Best one I have seen on this event.
    We have tried before to work with and talk with the Brady Campaign, to no avail. They just do not seam to want to talk. We are basically on the same side. We do not want criminals with guns. We do not want the mentally unstable to have guns. We do not think kids should guns without adult supervision.
    Lets work together to prevent gun violence, without infringing on anyone Constitutional Rights to Keep and Bear arms. In CA, we have never had any open carrier convicted of a violent crime. Why are we being targeted by the Brady Campaign?
    Lets keep the guns out of the bad guys/gals hand. But allow us to protect ourselves at the same time.

  5. Dan Dawson says:

    Some of the commenters above mention something along the lines that it seems stupid to carry an unloaded gun and that if you’re going to carry it should be loaded. Well unfortunately the rights recognized by the second amendment have already eroded to the point that Unloaded Open Carry (UOC) is the only legal method to have a firearm on your person for self defense and protection of your family.

    In most counties in California, it is simply not possible to receive a Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit. It is up to the discretion of each individual Sheriff and in most counties, no matter how much training you’ve had and no matter what your background is, they simply refuse to issue.

    Personally I would rather carry loaded and concealed, but neither of those are legal options for me, so when I feel I need to carry a weapon to defend my life, legally, it must be unloaded and openly carried.

    And the first commented talked about gun nuts wanting assault rifles… why do people always jump to non-related topics when the topic of Open Carry arrises? Stop by this open carry meeting… you won’t see any assault rifles, you’ll see men and women carrying a handgun in a holster. And you (the first commented) say you’re all for gun ownership for hunting… so because I personally don’t see a need for me to go kill wildlife, I shouldn’t be allowed to defend my life if attacked or threatened? Did the Second Amendment detail our pre-existing right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of hunting? Read the text, hunting is not mentioned nor the intent.

  6. AH for Self Defense Only says:

    The increase in numbers at this time of year and the attention will serve a good purpose. Right now there have been many violent crimes happening in Pleasant Hill. I will be educating the public on self defense and not only in firearms. We all must pay attention to our surroundings and should have proper tools to defend ourselves. Our thanks go out to the Brady Campaign for this public awareness campaign. Next time I ask you choose an even that has more parking and warn us in advanced so we can prepare for all of our supporters that show up at our events. If you want to know when the next litter clean up or blood drive is we would be more than happy for you to participate along with us. Other defense trainers will be coming with us for informational purposes.

    I believe we will have 7 new members who are joining thanks to the protest and media. I am sure there will be even more at and after the event. The more media and protesters, the more people who participate with us. No crime has been committed by a CA open carry advocate. I will see you all there with yet another way to carry a firearm legally other than just open.

  7. R.quiroz says:

    Im All For Open Carry! We Need this in California because If they Dont Stand up for our second Ammendment Who Will? I have Met some Of the Open Carry Folks and They are Extremely Knowledgeable On the Safety and Laws of a hand Gun. I think its great what they are doing! Carry On!!!!!!

  8. New to the cause says:

    I wasn’t a big fan of open carry until recently. California has slowly and surely taken away out right to bear arms. In other states and one county in California you can get a concealed carry permit. This just isn’t true for the rest of the state.

    I don’t like the idea of having to advertise that I am armed, or the idea of being openly armed with a unloaded weapon. But having a clip a couple seconds away is a lot better than having my weapon locked up at home should I have the need to protect my families lives or my own.

    I recently joined the open carry movement, not just as a stop gap to my and my families security with all the crime that has taken over our county as late, I joined to help them bring attention to the way concealed permits with held from the normal citizens of this state, that are legally able to have firearms. My family and I met with these people before we decided to back them, and found them to be just as normal as anyone, they just believe in fighting for their and our rights. If they didn’t bring attention to this, nobody would and more of our rights would be going down the drain. Look at all the rights that have come to people and caused that justly deserved them under the constitution. These rights didn’t just come on their own, people had to stand up to get them. It’s the same with this cause.

    As for the hunter in the first comment, it could just as well been you losing your right to have a weapon to hunt, if the NRA hadn’t been working so hard lobbying for your rights.

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