Those city and county officials are a hoot, aren't they?
The front door of Clay City, Alabama's city hall had a sign back in January prohibiting guns.
Then, along came Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange who released a statement telling Marion and Dallas counties that their signs on public buildings and at public parks did not comply with the law, since Alabama has state preemption with regard to the possession and carrying of firearms. Local governments are forbidden to ban firearms at any place which state law does not ban them.
The only way publicly owned properties (if not otherwise off-limits under state law) can legally ban firearms with a sign, is with the continuous posting of guards and the use of other security features, including, but not limited to, magnetometers, key cards, biometric screening devices, or turnstiles or other physical barriers.
We'll Just Wait As Long As We Can
Clay City Manager Ronnie Dixon heard of the AG's statement to Marion and Dallas counties, and agreed to take down their gun-buster signs if he could confirm that he had heard accurately.
"We've just been waiting on (AG Luther Strange) to put it out. I've been expecting it, but I haven’t seen it. If that’s the ruling, they’ll come down. It’s not anything that we've enforced anyway,” Dixon said.
So let me get this straight, a city manager who should have already been at least a little familiar with state law with regard to firearms, if he is going to post signs prohibiting them, apparently was ignorant of the law? After all, Alabama has had firearms state preemption for several years now.
Do not city and county governments have competent legal counsel to keep local officials accurately informed of state law? If not, why is taxpayer money funding those city attorneys? I guess good help is hard to find.
Just For Appearances
Since Dixon admitted the signs were not enforced anyway, just what was the purpose in leaving them up? Did he not have the budget to take them down? Were they viewed as beloved works of art, that he just didn't have the heart to remove them?
Do local officials really have to wait until the AG tells them to behave before they agree to obey state law? Mere citizens don't have the luxury to wait and decide to follow the law.
Surely, no one is naive enough in Alabama city or county government to truly believe that a sign prohibiting guns would stop armed criminals from coming in to do harm, are they?
But it is completely reasonable to believe that many law-abiding citizens would heed such signs and leave their guns in their vehicles over concern of getting in any trouble.
When good people disarm, and bad people don't, what is the result? However you shake it out, it's not good. Do not people like Dixon understand this?
The Real Reason
Here's what I believe: Local government officials place a high value on the exercise of their authority. They want to show their citizens their power to throw their weight around, even if it is contrary to state law. Even when they know and understand the law, they do not like to back down. They still wait until ordered by a higher government authority before changing course and admitting they were wrong.
The prerogative of citizens to exercise their rights, even to protect their own lives, takes a seat far in the back to the desire of local officials to show their power to rule. When caught, these officials either claim ignorance of the law, or blame the law itself even when it is crystal clear, or they just claim they want to do it anyway, because they think they should be able to. Their arrogance and impudence knows no bounds.
Citizens have a mechanism to file a complaint with which to get the attention of the AG to tell local government officials to obey the law. The fact that such a mechanism exists proves my point precisely. Here is the link to the form: http://www.ago.alabama.gov/File-Firearms-Law-Petition
Even to this date you can find prohibitions of firearms on the websites for various public zoos, botanical gardens, libraries, museums, and other city and county owned properties in Alabama. Looks like AG Strange has a lot more statements to send out.
I wonder if he could send just one that would say, "Hey, EVERYBODY follow state law!"
I suppose there's still a boatload of government officials that haven't received the memo on the state's motto: "Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere" (We Dare Defend Our Rights).
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Whether you live in Alabama or another state that has had trouble with local officials following state law, please comment on your experience here, and how you or others got them to comply.