Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) was stopped and questioned by Sacramento International Airport TSA security last week for attempting to bring a loaded pistol in his luggage.
Cooper, a former Mayor of Elk Grove as well as a former City Councilman and a former Sacramento County Sheriff Deputy for 30 years, has had a complicated history with firearms before the airport incident last week. While being armed as a former Sheriff, Cooper was less inclined to favor gun usage while in elected office, as exemplified by the NRA giving him one of their lowest grades during the 2020 election. At the same time, he has moved away from more progressive views on crime issues, such as opposing Prop 47, trying to pass a bill to make it easier for police and immigration officials to check phone records, and being in favor of harsher penalties for criminals.
Despite his mixed record, as well as numerous past scandals, Cooper has been reelected as Assemblyman three times. Rather than run again this year, Cooper declared his candidacy for Sacramento County Sheriff last month. His initial focus issue is homelessness in the County. Considered the top candidate, Cooper had enjoyed a quiet last month while working on the buildup to the election in June.
That stopped with the airport gun incident last week. When traveling last week, TSA found the loaded pistol in his luggage. This resulted in a call to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. The incident was deemed an accident, and the office kept his weapon and returned it when Cooper came back.
While Cooper himself has not yet commented of the incident, his office reaffirmed that it was an accident and that the Assemblyman was well within his right to be carrying a firearm as he is a former sheriff. While former peace officers are allowed to bring firearms into secure parts of an airport, they are, like other passengers, barred from taken them aboard planes.
Cooper’s office admits carrying gun was accidental
The story, originally broken by Politico on Monday, has quickly worked itself into the election. Opponents as well as groups against him now have more to use against him in the coming months.
“However you read this, Cooper is going to take a hit from it,” said Cliff Ojeda, an election advisor who specializes in firearms, to the Globe on Monday. “It’s all but certain from going through the incident that he simply forgot he had it there and obviously wasn’t trying anything. Everyone makes mistakes. But it was a gun, and it happened to a former sheriff, a current Assemblyman, and someone trying to become County Sheriff.”
“He’s going to be challenged on his knowledge of gun laws on this, and will probably be suggested as someone who doesn’t know what they are after this. This exact same thing has happened to others running for sheriff or were being considered as a police commissioner in the past by then forgetting they were armed while trying to get on a plane, or out East a few times, a train.”
“What always seems to work is to laugh it off later on. Like if there is a question over his firearm policies or security or something, he can work something like, ‘And believe me, I know what it’s like to be stopped by the TSA.’ He gets a laugh, situation is defused by him knowing what went wrong and just playing it off. What is not good is staying silent for too long about it and hoping it goes away. Other elections that might have worked, but it’s 2022. Every election is being scrutinized, and ‘Ex-sheriff who forgot where he put gun running for County Sheriff’ gets people’s attention, and not in a good way.”
“Bottomline. It was a simple mistake, but he needs to make sure he handles his response sooner rather than later and not make it blow up in the news.”
As of Monday night, Cooper has yet to address to issue in the press.