Modesto considers law regulating weapons in light of ‘straight pride’ rally proposal

While the proposed straight pride rally started as a debate over free speech, it briefly grew into a debate over gun rights as Modesto produced a proposed ordinance that included banning firearms at rallies and protests.

The city posted the proposed emergency ordinance on its website Friday. It bans glass bottles, softball bats, aerosol spray cans and similar items that can be used as weapons as well as the wearing of facial coverings, unless for medical or religious reasons.

The proposed ordinance included banning firearms. The City Council will consider the ordinance Tuesday evening.

Because of an email chain started by Mayor Ted Brandvold — in which he sounded the alarm (“It looks to me like they are trying to outlaw people carrying firearms at any public event in the City,” he wrote) — the Madison Society Foundation got involved.

The Oakdale-based foundation defends the Second Amendment and, according to its president, has more than 1,500 members in Stanislaus County.

It already is illegal in California to have a firearm in public unless someone has what is called a concealed carry weapon permit, which allows the holder to carry a loaded handgun.

Madison Society president Douglas Welborn read Modesto’s proposed ordinance as targeting people with CCW permits. He said there are 8,000 to 9,000 CCW permit holders in Stanislaus County. He has urged society members to attend Tuesday’s meeting to defend their Second Amendment rights.

But Monday afternoon, city spokesman Thomas Reeves said in a text that the ordinance never had anything to do with “hindering the rights of gun owners with a CCW.”

“The original ordinance on Friday did have the word firearms in it,” Reeves wrote, “but that has since been taken out to alleviate any confusion.”

But that is not expected to stop Madison Society members from turning out at the meeting.

“Do you trust politicians?” Welborn said about the city’s clarification. “That’s why we are going to be there to make sure firearms are taken out (of the ordinance) or that it does not apply to CCW holders. If you are not a CCW holder, you are already in violation of state law.”

Brandvold on Saturday emailed Dave Thomas, the former Modesto resident and City Hall critic, about the proposed ordinance.

“It looks to me like they are trying to outlaw people carrying firearms at any public event within the City,” Brandvold wrote Thomas. “I know you have connections in the City still, and I could use your help getting the word out to the right people.”

Brandvold said Monday that he also is concerned that the proposed ordinance includes language about banning firearms and other weapons from public assemblies. He questioned whether that included MoBand concerts in Graceada Park, parades and similar gatherings.

“Does it include the July Fourth parade where we are celebrating our rights and America,” asked the mayor, who said, when asked, that he has a CCW permit and often is armed.

But in a conference call Monday afternoon, City Attorney Adam Lindgren and Police Chief Galen Carroll said the proposed ordinance does not apply to entertainment and social events, including park concerts and parades.

They said the City Attorney’s Office developed the ordinance at the request of the Police Department to provide officers with more tools to deal with protests, counter-protests, rallies and other public assemblies that have the potential for violence.

“This is for when people bring weapons and attack each other and police officers,” Carroll said.

This is the latest controversy over the proposed straight pride rally that would celebrate traditional gender roles, Christianity, heterosexuality and the contributions of whites to Western Civilization.

It also would protect all of this from the malevolence of the homosexual movement, according to the website of one of the rally organizers.

Bay Area chiropractor Don Grundmann — who recently founded the National Straight Pride Coalition — and his longtime friend and Modesto resident Mylinda Mason had been organizing the rally for Aug. 24 in Mancini Bowl, the park’s amphitheater.

Modesto has denied the straight pride organizers’ request to use Graceada Park for a rally, citing concerns over safety, that the rally is not compatible with other events in the park, and that the organizers’ liability insurance has been voided.

The city is proposing an alternative location for Aug. 24 — the plaza in front of Modesto Centre Plaza, the city’s downtown convention center, provided organizers submit an application by Tuesday, including proof of insurance.

Opponents say the coalition and the rally promote white supremacy, hate speech and violence against the LGBTQ+ community, people of color and other minorities. Dozens of people packed last week’s City Council meeting to oppose the rally.

Mason said Monday that organizers are still working on their next steps but said an event will be held Aug. 24, a point made Friday by Grundmann.

“That’s the day we planned, bathed in prayer, and we intend to exercise our First Amendment rights and give a hearing to the speakers we have invited,” she said.

Modesto officials are concerned a rally could draw protesters and counter-protesters from outside the area, creating the potential for violence.