June 3, 2009 (Sacramento, CA) - The entire California State Assembly yesterday passed a proposed law that would train law enforcement personnel about Sikhs and kirpans. The bill now goes on for a vote by the California State Senate, and then to the Governor's Desk to hopefully be signed into law. Yesterday's Assembly vote passed 59-0. Extensive advocacy efforts led by the Sikh Coalition and local sangat members resulted in bipartisan support of this legislation.
Should it become law, this would be the first law specifically pertaining to the kirpan in the United States. The California State Assembly, andAssemblymember Warren Furutani in particular, should be commended for their hard work and pioneering spirit in passing this bill.
The proposed law (AB 504) would create and include training about the kirpan in the state curriculum for law enforcement officer training. The bill states explicitly, "It is the Legislature's goal to promote education and awareness of the carrying of the kirpan by Sikhs in California." The training would advise officers about "how to recognize and interact with persons carrying a kirpan."
The legislation arose out of a number of Sikhs being arrested for carrying kirpans because police mistakenly believe them to be in violation of concealed weapons laws. Such arrests violate Sikhs' rights and are a waste of taxpayers' money. Our hope is that being educated about the kirpan and its religious significance will decrease the number of wasteful arrests.
Assemblymember Warren Furutani: A Champion for California's Sikhs
The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach) in February 2009. Since then, Assemblymember Furutani and his staff have worked tirelessly with the Sikh Coalition and local Sikh activists to ensure that the bill is a priority for the legislature and for the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. Under his guidance, the bill passed unanimously through both the Public Safety Committee and the Appropriations Committee of the State Assembly. We thank Assemblymember Furutani for his strong leadership on this issue.
Numerous Sikhs have also contributed to the passage of this bill. Over 150 people emailed their local assembly person to ask for support over the past week. The Coalition would also like to thank Nitasha Kaur Sawhney, Niranjan Khalsa and Darshan Mundy, each of whom took the time to personally meet with members of the Assembly asking them to support the legislation.
The bill will now make its way to the Senate side of the legislature. There, it will first be voted on by the Public Safety Committee and then by the Appropriations Committee before making it to the Senate floor for a full vote in September. If the bill is passed by the Senate, it will end up on the desk of Governor Schwarzenegger to be signed into law!
For more information about AB 504, or to join our lobbying efforts for this bill, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org.