In yesterday’s Quote of the Day, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson announced his department’s new “proactive” approach to citizens exercising their legal right to openly carry firearms in his city. A local member of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia emailed the Chief asking where he gets off challenging people engaged in a legal activity with no probable cause. Here’s the Chief’s response:

I am happy to know you are a law abiding citizen. I am well aware of the open carry law and the rights of an individual to openly carry a firearm in Alabama. My personal opinion as stated in the Tuscaloosa News article is just my opinion regarding the law and not an interruption of the law. I hope you are not naïve enough to believe criminals and felons would not disobey the law . . .

As someone who deals with criminals and felons I am not naïve enough to believe if they discovered they could carry a weapon openly and not be challenged by law enforcement some of them would not give it a try. I do expect my officers  to respectfully speak with any one they come in contact with openly carrying a firearm in an effort to determine if they are legally within their rights to do so. We won’t know if we don’t ask.  Thank you for your email.

Steven D. Anderson
Chief of Police
Tuscaloosa Police Department
3801 Mill Creek Av
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
205-248-4500 -office
email: sanderso@tuscaloosa.com

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57 Responses to Chief Anderson to Open Carry Tuscaloosans: We Ask, You Tell

  1. I wonder if his police officers stop every automobile to see if the driver has a valid licence, you know, because, if they don’t ask, they won’t know. Also, I’m curious, what would happen if someone invokes their right to remain silent? I see lawsuits in the future of Chief Anderson.

    • you can bet that if you ever have a police car behind you at a stop light they are putting your tag numbers into their computer to see if your liscense has been suspended or if there are any warrants out for your arrest.

        • Are you suggesting that I dont have a right to own property? To own a car?

          Or that I dont have a right to drive on public roads? Roads that were paid for with my tax dollars?

          Please clarify.

        • Strangely enough, it is settled law that driving a car is a privilege and not a right. This why accumulating a number of relatively minor infractions allows your state “regulators” to withdraw your driving ‘privileges.’ Go figure.

        • Wouldn’t that actually reinforce the comment you’re replying to though? That “should” make it more likely for the cops to pull people over simply to check legitimacy in his hypothetical. And I hate to speculate, but I think I’m not really pushing it when I say a person prohibited from driving will have a waaaay easier time of getting a car to drive than even a criminal buying a gun on the street. There aren’t nice little rows of guns all sitting unattended curbside on every street waiting to be stolen. That’d be a travesty to the lefties if they applied their grabber nonsense to any other area of life. Heck, if grabber nonsense were applied to all areas of life the planet would be nothing but padded cells with automated food tubes.

          Wooo, tangent. Imma stop now. Hard not to do that when you think about grabbers.

      • I drove with the dealer banners (not dealer plates) for 2 years. Out here in LA my ex she, lived in culver city, had issues with Redlight cameras in here neighborhood. I said forget it. A no-plates/fixit ticket is $44 ($17 for the signaturer, $27 for the ticket). That beats the $450 “red light” (my ass) ticket. Also, there are cameras at every main intersection out here. Its kinda ridiculous. I got stopped, put the plates on showed a sheriff, paid the fine, and still have them on, but have always considered taking them back off for that very reason. I’m not hiding anything, I just dont like the fact that at any point in time, while traveling freely about my city/nation I can have a background/criminal check run against me. Will a pending DROS, 0r recent purchase show up? I dont know, but whatever reduces my exposure, and conversations with officers, the better.

        • Very interesting to say the least. We have license plate covers that alter the tags from any view other than direct line of sight.

          It still doesn’t solve the random screening that a Barney can run against you while obeying the law, but it does stop those damned redlight cameras from zapping you.

  2. I posted a comment on the newspaper’s website and called him to task, esp given the discriminatory history of weapons law. I may need to write him directly.

  3. Email today:

    “Dear Chief Anderson

    I read with interest your interview in the “Tuscaloosa News” and a subsequent email question published online this morning in “The Truth About Guns” (http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2012/02/daniel-zimmerman/chief-anderson-to-open-carry-tuscaloosans-we-ask-you-tell/#more-109795). As it appears that the laws of the State of Alabama are subject to the interpretation of the Tuscaloosa I was curious if your officers will be stopping every motor vehicle to determine that the driver has a valid license? And stopping everyone walking in town to determine that they are indeed residents of Tuscaloosa, or at least the State of Alabama?

    Sincerely”

    • Response received from Chief Anderson:

      “Mr. Steele,

      The Tuscaloosa Police Department respects the rights of individuals in our community and State. We are aware of the Open Carry Laws. We are also aware that certain persons are forbidden to legally possess weapons and that there a certain places where carrying weapons are prohibited. That being said, we will not harass or intimidate individuals exercising their right to openly carry a firearm. We will however, investigate and/or respond to any citizen complaint or concern regarding this issue when it is brought to our intention. We will do this in a respectful manner and with as minimal intrusion on the rights of the individual as possible. “

      • Does that mean I can call in a complaint about all the jack booted police thugs openly carrying and it will be investigated?

      • The excellent analogy of the vehicle driver still holds. Are you aware Chief that there are “certain persons” forbidden to operate a motor vehicle?

        My bet is that you are NOT going to do this in a respectful manner simply because there is no way to approach citizens about this in a respectful manner. Will you mark them off with a check mark after accosting them in the street so that they will not have the same thing happen again 20 minutes later and 2 blocks away? And again another 2 blocks away? How often will a person be required to prove to you that they are lawful? Until every officer in your employ has stopped the citizen? If you say this won’t happen you are naive or a liar. It will most certainly be a Maximum Intrusion and is one more tool used by government against it’s citizens. If the door is opened for government to do a certain thing, you can be guaranteed that it WILL do that thing.

      • Wait, what?
        “We will do this in a respectful manner and with as minimal intrusion on the rights of the individual as possible.”
        So his department only intrudes on the rights just a little? We don’t need no stinkin search warrant, we’re only intruding just a little.
        Yes, you do have the right to remain silent, but I’ll just bop you on the head a little.
        We’re only violating your rights just a little bit, you can come vote next election.
        Since church service is usually on Sundays, you can’t pray today, but don’t worry, it’s only a small violation of your rights.

  4. “My personal opinion as stated in the Tuscaloosa News article is just my opinion regarding the law and not an interruption of the law. “

    Please tell me that is what he actually wrote.

  5. Looks like another example of police not having enough to do in the cities/towns they patrol. Maybe someone should ask if the Tuscaloosa PD have all their cases solved and if the place is a verdant green town completely void of criminal action or intent. If so, maybe some layoffs are in order. If not, please remove your head from your asses.

    I (again) live in Cleveland. At one time in Cleveland’s recent history we have had police pull over pretty much any car they saw stopped and running in bad neighborhoods. The reason for this (this has been studied. this is not me being racist. there are books on it) is because with these ‘stops’ they would find that they had roughly 7 in 10 drug related arrests. It was so common to find that a black man parked in front of a house in a bad neighborhood with a car running meant he was selling drugs that the term DWB (driving while black) was coined. So the police in the West side (white side) of town would pull over pretty much any black guy driving and in a lot of cases make a drug related arrest. On the East side (black side) the police would pull over a white guy for pretty much any reason with very few drug related arrests.

    This became such a political issue that soon the police had to pretty much turn a blind eye to blatant drug dealing from vehicles parked on the street. Even though that in most cases someone was doing something wrong and detrimental to society as a whole and being caught red handed in the act the race card saved them and their ‘businesses’.

    What does the above scenario have to do with anything in this article? I would like to point out the use of the word ‘opinion’. Opinions are what make the above happen. Following the law to the letter and enforcing it when a law has been broken would stop most crimes without issue. But for some reason someone gets bored and decides to make their mark on the world – as if they have a clue. The examples East side police chief issued that white people be pulled over in the East side for merely being white because black people were being pulled over in the West side for dealing drugs. Remove the races of both and the story would read as such.

    -East side police chief issues people be pulled over for no reason. West side police chief issues people be arrested for drug dealing-

    To sum up… Race. Feelings. Opinions. All have nothing to do with anything when it comes to the enforcement of the law. The book has no favorite. The book has no heart. It only wants to punish those that are not abiding to the words within its pages.

    Before the fan boys roll in… this is a class me and my East Indian wife took at Cleveland State University taught by a black lady. The class was a study on the way black people and white people interact (or don’t) in Cleveland as a whole.

    • Interesting analysis. I have mixed emotions about being “carded” for carrying. I’m an OFWG so I’d rarely (expect to) be carded. So, the prospect of “papers please” doesn’t bother me much. I hasten to add that if I were a young-skinny-black-kid I’d expect to be carded regularly and that would soon annoy me.
      I have thought of this question in respect to Stop-&-Frisk. IF we assume the “Terry stop” IS Constitutional as SCOTUS has found it, how would popularization of the CWP-card affect S&F? I imagine the following dialogue in a stop:
      – Pardon me sir, is that a gun in your pocket? Or, are you just happy to see me?
      – Yes, it is / No, it isn’t. Would you like to see my carry permit? In any case, constable, I’m always pleased to see you.
      Irrespective of whether the citizen responds Yes/No, the offer to show a carry permit resolves the intrusion within a few seconds. The cop doesn’t have to believe/doubt the citizen’s answer. Whether the citizen has a gun or not, his offer to show his CWP-card resolves the questions of: his 2A ability to carry one; and, his lack of antecedent criminal convictions. He might be in possession of drugs, stadium tickets-to-be-scalped, or some other contraband. That the cop perceives him to be “printing” is a pretext to inquire about a gun, but NOT to ask about drugs or anything else.
      I anticipate most readers objecting to my supposition: “IF we assume the “Terry stop” IS Constitutional . . . ” I’m not eager to concede that the Terry stop is Constitutional; I’m just imagining a less-than-Utopian world that might be better than the one we live in today.
      Clearly, we share concerns over our rights under the 2A and the 4A. We would like to be equally – acutely – scrupulous about each of these rights. Arguably, we aren’t winning on either front. That is, the 10 Won’t-Issue States aren’t changing their laws; nor is SCOTUS eager to reverse it’s ruling on the Terry Stop (S&F). Are we happy with just being stuck where we are? Or, should we toy with alternative ways of thinking about making our cases?
      Maybe we should have a dialogue with the minority communities in the Won’t-Issue States. Ask them to support a Shall-Issue law in their States. These minorities – and their mothers – might be willing to reconsider their hoplophobia if they construed that Stop-&-Card for a 2A-Certification card would be a vastly-superior alternative to Stop-&-Frisk. Admittedly, it wouldn’t be a Utopia. Young black males would still be stopped frequently, but the exercise of showing a 2A-Certified card would be less obnoxious than a command to “spread-’em”. Fewer of them would be discovered to be carrying drugs or stadium tickets-with-intent-to-scalp. Fewer would wind up in jail/prison.
      Each of us has our own – personal – objection to the “papers-please” detention. Which is it for me?; for you? Is it being stopped? Being asked for my name? Being asked for my address? Being questioned? Being physically frisked? I have 4 CCPs from different States. Two have my name, address and photo. Three have my name and photo. One, my name and address but no photo. Curious inconsistencies.
      Imagine if my CCP(s) ONLY had my photo? (I.e., not my name, nor my address.) If a cop stops me because I’m printing, I could show him my CCP with my photo-only. Without saying a word, I could dispense with the question of whether I have a 2A right; and, if so, that I’m not a felon. That should suffice to satisfy the cop’s concern. If it does not suffice to satisfy the cop’s concern then there must be more to his concern than the possibility that I might be a 2A-dis-abled carrier.
      Perhaps something about my behavior suggests that I might be looking for a victim. Or, perhaps my clothing or accessories reveals that I’m a member of a group against which the cop is prejudiced. In either of such alternative possibilities we are on different grounds that would be governed by laws and interpretations having nothing to do with the exercise of 2A rights; in which case, the analysis would be outside the scope of this forum.
      Would we be better off being able to carry (in the 10 Won’t-Issue States) without fear of prosecution at the expense of showing a CWP? I’m asking a question that is essentially political. Would the US be a nation with more rights if we could carry in NY, NJ, DC, MD at the expense of showing a CWP? Or, are we better off fighting the long battle for perfect respect of the 4A while foregoing our carry rights in 10 States?

  6. As a daywalker that works as a law enforcement agent by day, and an armed supporter of the second amendment by night, I have mixed feelings here.

    Ultimately, a law enforcement officer does have the ability to engage a person in a consensual encounter and ask them questions. It is only when a LEO interferes with your freedom of movement or makes a reasonable person feel like they are not free to leave that you have been detained. At least that’s the federal perspective. Perhaps another reader can interject with knowledge regarding Alabama-specific law? What authorities to Police have in Alabama when it comes to questioning someone on the street without any suspicion (because after all, exercising a constitutional right may not be used as an articulable fact on which you may base suspicion of criminal activity)? Do they have the ability to ask for names, other PII or identification in that state?

    State laws not being taken into consideration, I pose the following scenario:

    A cop in Tuscaloosa engages an openly carrying person in conversation, and asks them to identify themselves. The cop also asks if that person is a felon (the ONLY scenario where that person is in the wrong unless they are carrying in a silly gun-free zone AKA a target rich environment). Because the exercise of a right CANNOT be used as an element upon which to base a LEO’s suspicion under the law, couldn’t that citizen just walk away? Just walk away… and not say a word? Or even tell the LEO to pound sand. Because if the officer tells them to stop, he has temporarily seized them under the law. In the absence of additional articulable facts to justify that detention (a Terry stop), that citizen’s civil rights have just been violated. Lawsuit time, and frankly the LEO would have brought that upon himself.

    Then again, I work in a pretty unique field of law enforcement and interact with armed citizens on a daily basis so maybe to me it’s just no big deal. I stay frosty in those situations just in case, but I would never imagine treating an armed person differently unless that person were armed during the commission of a crime. Or if there were pre-assault indicators present. But that’s ultra-rare, because in my area citizens arm themselves against the same dangerous people/situations that I do. It would take a special kind of morally-bankrupt monster to say that I can be armed under those conditions and they can’t.

    • What authorities to Police have in Alabama when it comes to questioning someone on the street without any suspicion

      Apparently, none, other than “casual conversation”.

      Section 15-5-30 – Authority of peace officer to stop and question.

      A sheriff or other [law enforcement officer] may stop any person abroad in a public place whom he reasonably suspects is committing, has committed or is about to commit a felony or other public offense and may demand of him his name, address and an explanation of his actions.

      Funny thing is, if the person that is stopped IS a felon, he can’t be forced to give his name as that would be a 5A violation.

  7. In other words,anyone with a gun on their hip sans badge will be challenged.If they’re a law abiding citizen,they’ll be challenged disrespectfully.

    Were it up to Law Enforcement there would be none of this Bill of Rights nonsense.Such rules about due process get in the way of a stellar Compstat clearance metric after all.

  8. It seems to me that the chief thinks open carry is probable cause.

    A citizen who is not under arrest has no duty to speak to the cops, and while under arrest can elect to STFU.

  9. One wonders what he means by “Challenged”?

    Taken to the ground at gunpoint?

    Forced to produce ID?

    Held indefinitely while he “investigates”?

    • “Oh, you don’t want to tell me your name, huh? You know your rights, huh? Well, just park your ass on that curb while I figure out just exactly who you are and what you’re up to.”

      • Is Matt In FL actually Matt In Pinellas County, FL? That is almost verbatim what a Pinellas County Sherif said to me after stopping me for walking down the sidewalk wearing a black t-shirt at 8pm. In his mind I was wearing a black t-shirt at night because I was going to rob people. His supervisor did not agree.

        • Haha, no. I’m in Orlando. But you should really change your wardrobe. Black t-shirts are worn by the bad guys, don’t you know?

  10. I think that Chief Krupke or whatever his name is wants to be the next police chief of New York or Philly. What he really needs to do is order his officers to prone out every former centerfold in Tuscaloosa. That’ll put him on the short list.

  11. Folks, please don’t stir this pot unless it pertains to you. Alabama Open Carry has a large contingent in Tuscaloosa and they have regular meetings where law enforcement officers are invited and often attend. Just this past Monday, there were almost 70 members in attendance including some police officers. That is why the chief got face time on this issue to begin with. We can assure you that the words from the chief do not match the climate for open carriers in Tuscaloosa. We have no reports from any members that anyone has been “challenged” in the past by LEO and until it actually does happen, we wish to work with the TPD in a friendly manner as opposed to an adversarial manner. So, while we share your disappointment with the chief’s words, they have not been turned into action as of yet. When or if they do, I’m sure there will be plenty of gnashing of teeth for everyone, but until then, we’d rather handle this on the local level. Thank you.

    • “we wish to work with the TPD in a friendly manner as opposed to an adversarial manner”

      Excellent plan, and exactly how it should be handled.

      “while we share your disappointment with the chief’s words, they have not been turned into action as of yet.”

      I disagree with waiting until rights have been violated to react when the plan is to violate rights. Why not work to prevent it from happening instead of waiting for it to happen.

      “we’d rather handle this on the local level”

      It is not just a local issue though. If I were to visit and exercise my legal right to open carry it would effect me. In fact it would likely effect me more as none of the local law enforcement officers will recognize or know me. That makes it more likely that they will stop me.

      Don’t get me wrong, I believe a lot of local support is needed and any actions should originate there, but the Chief, and perhaps you as well, need to understand that his actions and decisions effect a lot more people than just the locals.

      I wish you luck in the fight against this blatant violation of rights.

      • Can’t agree more with you. The chief has basically fired a warning shot at anyone that dares to exercise their rights. Seems to me that he is a lawsuit waiting to happen and if I were a taxpaying citizen in Tuscaloosa, I’d be very concerned.

        For me, this is just another reason to conceal. Tactically, it makes the most sense to keep the element of surprise on my side. Additionally, if I don’t give an officer probable cause to search, then their burden just increased exponentially.

    • So, Tim, we can’t write about it or discuss it?

      May I respectfully ask: are you insane? I mean, it’s not like any of us are planning to take our vacations in Tuscaloosa or show up there for a sit-in.

    • Folks, please don’t stir this pot unless it pertains to you.

      Sir, Are you suggesting that I “stay out of it” so that when it takes a firm hold in Tuscaloosa, spreads all through Alabama and sets precedence nationwide I can then tackle it in my community instead?

      I do agree with you that you have to work with the TPD and push, urge, and influence them to not carry out what seems like a crackpot edict from their Chief. Good luck.

  12. How are they planning on determining your legal right to have a handgun? Are they going to prone you out and wait the up to three days for an NICS check to come back? Are they going to insist on fingerprinting you on scene and run your prints? What exactly is his plan here?

  13. Just to let you know I’m the guy who was interviewed for the new piece. We’ve not had any trouble with the officers here in Tuscaloosa and are not looking for any. I know the Chief and have sat in his office concerning OC. I think he chose the wrong words to say and I really wish he hadn’t said that. However I stand by the Tuscaloosa Police Dept as a Class Act. We have nothing to “bash” them about as they’ve been most acepting of OC. ALOC doesn’t bash officers and we want to work with them. We had an officer at our last meet up here and there were 67 OC’ers present. We’ve had officers at several of our meetings from several different deepartments. I understand there will be more at the one in March. Some are even coming from out of town to learn more about OC. We welcome them and we want them to know that. I have nothing but good things to say about the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

  14. Listen folks, I’m going to piss people off (not that I haven’t done that before anyways), but here goes. They are challenging folks, or are about to, because bad guys have guns as well. If open carry is completely sacred, than bad guys can use it as a weapon, just like they have used any number of illegal weapons.

    As a result, some people will have their serial numbers checked, just like vehicle license plates in open view get checked as well. Guess what, stolen cars get driven in broad daylight. Do you really think that guns won’t ever be used in the same manner? How would you, as a police chief, discourage the use of open-carry in a crime?

    So, a gun in the open may have its serial number checked, just like a car may have its plate checked. Life goes on.

    • Nowhere in the US Constitution, Bill of Rights or AL State Constitution does it state you have a right to have a car or to drive it on the streets. Even then it is unconstitutional to stop you just because you are driving a car to see if you have a license. (AL State Constitution states “That every citizen has a right to bear arms in defence of himself and the state.”)

      “How would you, as a police chief, discourage the use of open-carry in a crime?”

      Well since it is a non issue I would not waste my time on it. I have not seen any reports of criminals open carrying, nor do I expect they have any desire to. They do not want to draw attention to themselves.

      “They are challenging folks, or are about to, because bad guys have guns as well.”

      Bad guys use music to promote gang life, so you are ok if we get rid of the right to free speech as well? While we are at it, bad guys vote so that needs to go too.

      “So, a gun in the open may have its serial number checked, just like a car may have its plate checked.”

      You are not detained to have your license plate checked, nor is your personal information and background investigated for executing a constitutional right.

  15. (sarc on) Well the best thing to do is wear shirts that have your firearms make, model and serial number printed on it and like the license plate if it comes back a No Go then they can legally detain you!!!!
    Maybe the Welfare Office will pay for the shirts for u poor people!!!!(sarc off)!!!!

  16. If you qualify to open carry then you more than likely qualify to get your CCW. Here is a simple solution, go through the legal process of obtaining your CCW and carried concealed. I like CC exponentially more than OC. No one needs to know that I’m carrying a gun until it’s too late and it’s already gone bang in a justified DGU.

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