On Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk is a bid to bar Californians from openly carrying firearms, legislation that could open a new front in the state’s decades-old gun control debate.

The measure, aimed at an increasingly popular tactic used by Second Amendment activists, would make California the first state since 1987 to outlaw the controversial practice of publicly displaying a weapon.

The governor — a gun owner — has not taken an official position on the bill, passed by the Legislature last week. He has argued both sides of gun control issues in the past.

State law allows the open carrying of unloaded firearms. The measure before Brown would thwart activists who stage “open carry” demonstrations and want, ultimately, the right to legally display loaded guns. Such aficionados drew national attention last year when they walked into Starbucks outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere, pistols holstered on their hips.

Participants in the open-carry movement, contending it is a way to show that normal people pack heat, take advantage of most states’ relative silence about the practice. Only seven states, including Illinois and Texas, prohibit the open toting of guns, and most of their laws were adopted in the 1980s or decades earlier, according to the Legal Community Against Violence and other groups involved in the debate.

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