The Mobile City Council voted Tuesday to ask the local legislative delegation to give the city more autonomy when it comes to regulating unsecured guns, following a rash of crimes committed with guns stolen out of unlocked vehicles.
The resolution, which was approved unanimously and supported by members of Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration, also asked members of the delegation to support two bills aimed at deterring gun crimes from happening in the first place. The bills are House Bill 375, sponsored by Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne), which would make possession of a stolen gun a felony, and House Bill 282, sponsored by Rep. Chip Brown (R-Grand Bay), which would give judges, by constitutional amendment, more reasons to deny bond.
Councilman C.J. Small has for weeks pushed for the resolution in hopes of holding gun owners more accountable for leaving firearms in unlocked vehicles.
“I’m tired of being asked ‘C.J., what are you going to do?,’” he told councilors. “What I can do is what’s before us now.”
Small acknowledged that the council itself can only come up with part of the solution, even if the delegation allows it to take action. He put some of the responsibility on Mayor Sandy Stimpson and his office.
“I’m going to point the finger back at somebody else,” Small added. “I’m tired of being blamed.”
City attorney Ricardo Woods said the administration supports the resolution, but Public Safety Director Jim Barber cautioned councilors that they should be focusing on the people who steal the guns and not the crime victims.
“I don’t think this will be successful,” Barber said. “I don’t think this will pass.”
Councilman Fred Richardson said unsecured guns in Mobile is at “epidemic proportions,” adding that “saying it’s useless is unacceptable.”
Barber added that law enforcement has begun to see an increase in stolen guns out of Baldwin County, so a law regulating unsecured guns in Mobile might not be effective. In his comments to the council, Barber also inferred that the number of stolen gun reports would drop if the city starts to punish owners over unsecured guns.
While Small compared deaths from unsecured guns to highway construction deaths caused by motorists and asked why the city couldn’t similarly fine gun owners like it does speeders, Woods said regulating gun ownership is more complicated.
“Speeding is not protected by the U.S. Constitution, gun ownership is,” he said. “It is one thing to ask the state for more tools … it’s another to take on one of the issues at the foundation of our government.”
The resolution, which is designed to give the city more tools when it comes to gun regulation, was amended Tuesday to take out language related to examples of the regulations the city could place on gun owners if the legislature allowed them to move forward. In a pre-conference, Councilwoman Gina Gregory felt that changing the wording might give the resolution a better chance of success in Montgomery.
“I love the idea of more tools in the toolbox, but maybe we could soften the language and not provide the examples,” she said. “That specific language may close the door rather than open it. If we cut that language we might have better luck.”
While Councilman John Williams voted to support the resolution, he said he doesn’t think he’ll support any strict gun regulations in the future, aside from mandatory reporting for stolen firearms.
Council Vice President Levon Manzie and Woods both lauded Small’s work on the resolution, following Tuesday’s vote.
“I want to commend our colleague C.J. Small, who really worked hard on this issue because he’s passionate about it, like we all are,” Manzie said. “This is one way we can have some input.”
In other business, the council approved a $68.400 contract with Cruise and Port advisors to help market the city to cruise lines in order to “attract and retain passenger cruise service at the Mobile, Alabama Cruise Terminal.”
While Carnival has no complaints about the service it receives from the city, the company has taken issue with the fact that cruisers boarding in Mobile spend less money while on the ship than cruisers who board in other areas, Stimpson said.
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