Governor Jerry Brown signed the highly controversial AB 144 bill which makes it a misdemeanor to openly carry an unloaded handgun in public. Violators could face up to a year in prison or a potential fine of $1,000 when the law takes effect Jan 1.

Gun owners have been protesting the legislation since it was introduced in January, a few days after a shooting in Tucson, Ariz., killed six people and wounded 13, including U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords. In April, gun owners began carrying unloaded handguns in public places and restaurants as a political statement in Pasadena.

The bill exempts hunting and shooting events and doesn’t apply to those are given permits to carry a concealed weapon by law enforcement authorities.]

The bill also will require records of “long gun” sales and transfers to be preserved, rather than destroyed, starting in 2014. A third part could enhance efforts to seize firearms from someone who doesn't have a criminal record when purchasing a gun but later commits a felony. 

The bill's author is Democratic State Senator Mark Leno stated, “The situation's getting only worse, more expensive. We need some funds to be able to confiscate these guns, and with the signing of this bill, there will be some funds identified.”

Gun advocates and most Republican lawmakers have criticized the law, saying it targets law-abiding citizens. State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, said Brown sent the message that he has no respect for the Constitution.

“There are risks to living in a free state, and for the governor to take away and chisel away at the Second Amendment right when he claimed to respect it, it just kind of shows his true colors,” Donnelly said.

“It's really a form of tyranny,” he said of the ban.