On Hoos'gow Day in San Juan Capistrano, 50 people dressed as cowboys brandish guns loaded with blanks and roam the city center, throwing anyone who isn't wearing Old West attire into a mock jail.Maybe the San Juan cowboys should just run around pointing their fingers at each other and yelling "BANG!", or is that illegal too?
The annual tradition is supposed to be harmless - and a new state law banning the open carry of handguns will make it even more so.
The law, which took effect Jan. 1, means the antique pistols that members of the San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association customarily carry on Hoos'gow Day can't be used, said Steve Weekes, the association's president.
Hoos'gow Day, which this year is scheduled for March 23, is one of the highlights of the city's three-month Fiesta de las Golondrinas, or Swallows Festival, which celebrates the traditional return of migrating swallows from Argentina. Hoos'gow Day is a fundraiser that generates $700 to $800 a year for the Fiesta Association. Residents who are thrown in "jail" can buy their way out by buying fiesta merchandise for a few dollars.
The state law exempts guns used in historical reproductions, such as those carried by participants in the annual Swallows Day Parade, scheduled for March 24. But the ban does apply to Hoos'gow Day, which is a more of an Old West homage than a historical reproduction.
Orange County sheriff's deputies met with members of the Fiesta Association last week to explain the new rule. Sheriff's Lt. John Meyer, San Juan's chief of police services, said Hoos'gow Day can continue but participants must use replica handguns manufactured with plugged barrels. They can't convert their real guns by soldering the barrels shut.
Participants also have the option of using long guns such as rifles or shotguns loaded with blanks.
The stupid knows no bounds in California.