About two dozen demonstrators from as far away as Sacramento met at Bay Fair Mall at noon Saturday, carrying unloaded rifles, shotguns and sidearms to protest a new California law that will make it illegal to carry unloaded handguns.
That law, AB 144, will take effect Jan. 1.
But it will not make it illegal for citizens to carry unloaded rifles and shotguns said Adnan Shahab, a Fremont resident with Responsible Citizens of California.
"Just because one right is taken away unfairly doesn't mean all rights are taken away," said Shahab, who wore a shotgun and bandolier over one shoulder.
After assembling in the parking lot outside , the group made its way to the sidewalk at Hesperian Boulevard and Bayfair Drive.
As they stood at the corner with their weapons in plain view the driver of one car told the protestors that they ought to keep their guns at home.
But other than that brief exchange, the rally proceeded without incident.
Afterward some members of the group crossed Hesperian Boulevard, firearms and all, and had lunch at the Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The event began like a tailgate party. The protestors assembled in a section of the parking lot along Hesperian. Media swarmed around them with cameras, microphones and notepads.
"I'm surprised there's not a hell of a lot more folks here," said Pete Martucci, who came from Union City wearing his sidearm.
Other demonstrators came from Danville, Sacramento and Dublin.
Bernard Wade, a San Leandro man with a long gray pony tail, came to the rally unarmed but in step with the protest.
"I came out here today for the Constitution and for the Second Amendment," Wade said.
Spectators watching from outside the 24 Hour Fitness expressed differing views of AB 144 and the rally.
Lynne O'Connell of San Leandro supported the rally. She called California a "nanny state" for enacting the ban.
"They try to protect everybody from the 1 percent of the nut cases," said O'Connell, who said she doesn't own a gun but is "not anti-gun."
Craig Clark of Oakland called the protest and the issue behind it a gray area.
He said he could understand the protestors defending their notion of Second Amendment rights. "But I'm nervous around weapons," he said.
The gun owners on hand Saturday were adamant about their right to bear arms in public.
Shahab, who is running for the Republican nomination in the state's 20th Assembly District, said some Californians are determined to protect their right to self-defense even "if it means carrying swords."
In a Yih-Chau Chang, a spokesman for the group behind the rally, said gun-rights advocates don't expect to sway public opinion in California.
Instead they hope to overturn the ban in the federal courts.
Chang wrote a which referred to court decisions favorable to what supporters call the open carry movement.