Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) was arrested and questioned by Sacramento International Airport security last week for attempting to bring a loaded gun into his luggage.
Cooper, a former mayor of Elk Grove as well as a former city councilman and former Sacramento County sheriff for 30 years, had a complicated history with guns before the incident at the airport last week. While armed as a former sheriff, Cooper was less inclined to favor the use of firearms during his elective office, as evidenced by the The NRA gave it one of its lowest ratings in the 2020 election. At the same time, he moved away from more progressive views on crime issues, such as against Prop 47, trying to pass a bill to make it easier for police and immigration officers to check phone recordsand in favor of tougher penalties for criminals.
Despite its mixed record, as well as many past scandals, Cooper was reelected three times to the Assembly. Rather than race again this year, Cooper declared his candidacy for Sacramento County Sheriff last month. His initial problem is homelessness in the county. Considered the top contender, Cooper had enjoyed a quiet last month while working on preparations for the June election.
That ended with the gun incident at the airport last week. On a trip last week, TSA found the loaded gun in his luggage. This resulted in a call to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. The incident was ruled an accident, and the office kept his gun and returned it when Cooper returned.
Although Cooper himself has yet to comment on the incident, his office has reaffirmed that it was an accident and that the Assemblyman was well within his rights to carry a gun because he is a former sheriff. While ex-peace officers are permitted to bring firearms into secure parts of an airport, they cannot, like other passengers, take them on planes.
Cooper’s office admits carrying a gun was accidental
The story, originally broken by Politico on Monday, quickly advanced in the election. Opponents as well as groups against him now have more to use against him in the months to come.
“However you read this, Cooper is going to take a hit,” Cliff Ojeda, an election adviser specializing in firearms, told The Globe on Monday. “He’s almost certain, after going through the incident, that he just forgot he had it there and obviously wasn’t trying anything. Everyone makes mistakes. But it was a firearm. fire, and it happened to a former sheriff, a current member of the assembly, and someone who was trying to become a county sheriff.
“He’s going to be challenged on his knowledge of gun laws on this, and will likely be suggested as someone who doesn’t know what he is after this. It’s the exact same thing that’s happened to other sheriff candidates or been considered police commissioners in the past forgetting they were armed while trying to get on a plane, or to go out a few times in the East, a train.
“What always seems to work is laughing it off later. For example, if there’s a question about his gun policy or safety or something, he might say something like “And believe me, I know what it’s like to be arrested by the TSA.” He laughs, the situation is defused by him knowing what was wrong and just playing it. What’s not good is staying silent about it for too long and hoping it goes away. Other elections that might have worked, but it’s 2022. Every election comes under scrutiny, and ‘the ex-sheriff who forgot where he put a gun for the county sheriff’ draws attention people, and not in a good way.
“At the end of the line. It was a simple mistake, but he needs to make sure he handles his response as soon as possible and doesn’t blow it up in the news.
As of Monday evening, Cooper did not yet have an address to publish in the press.