By Kim West
An animal control officer maintained he should be allowed to openly carry a personal firearm outside of responding to animal calls as he spoke to the Limestone County Commission during Wednesday’s work session.
Joe Moss, an honorary sheriff’s deputy and a full-time animal control officer for the county, asked the commission to consider allowing him to continue to carry his non-county issue .45 automatic pistol in his hip holster.
Moss, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, said he has 35 years of military experience and has worked on and off for the county for the past 20 years.
“I’m authorized to carry on Redstone Arsenal, and if you’ve ever been to the arsenal, you know how hard it is carry a gun there. I’m trained in the use of force through the military,” Moss said.
Moss, a full-time employee supervised by the county instead of the Sheriff’s Office, told the commission he is “range-certified.” County officials said he would not be allowed to receive certified police training without being an officer with the Sheriff’s Department, which would require a job change and amending the staffing plan.
“(Chairman) Stanley (Menefee) has brought up the issue of me not carrying a firearm … the reason I wanted a weapon is sometimes the deputy can’t get there (on an animal call), and I feel that I need a gun to protect myself,” said Moss, who was wearing his regular uniform and a holstered handgun to the work session at the Washington Street annex.
Menefee said his primary concern is to protect Moss from harm and prevent additional liability to the county outside of the officer’s regular animal calls.
“(Moss) is not trained as a deputy would be, and I would rather him carry a gun in his vehicle,” said Menefee. “I’m concerned about Joe and the county’s liability.”
Commissioner Steve Turner, a gun owner, said Moss could continue to carry a concealed weapon or use his gun for animal calls. He told Moss he should leave his handgun in his vehicle if he wasn’t responding to a call.
“I don’t have a problem with (Moss) having a gun, or having a gun on (his) side when (he’s) actually doing his job,” Turner said. “But there’s no need to wear it to Lowe’s or in a convenience store to get a cold drink.”
Commissioner Gary Daly said the county employs one other animal control officer that does not carry an open or concealed gun. Animal control officers also carry a bite stick and pepper spray but Moss said the spray is not always effective against animals such as pit bulls.
Moss said he has never had a firearm-related incident that caused a liability for the county, and that he has fired his gun once in the past two years.
“There (were) a lot of times I should have, but I didn’t because I don’t want to shoot an animal,” Moss said.
Moss said repeatedly removing a gun is a potential risk, and he said leaving his firearm in his vehicle brought the possibility of theft.
“Have you ever worn a gun and tried to take it on and off?” Moss asked during the work session. “And I don’t want to leave it in my vehicle because it could be stolen.”
When Daly suggested that Moss could conceal his weapon “by sticking it in his pocket,” Moss responded by saying, “That’s just crazy … and it’s not worth 15 cents. Just let me do what I’ve been doing for the last two years.”
Menefee said Moss could continue to carry his handgun but it would need to be concealed.
Moss’s final argument for being openly armed is that he is “on call 24-7, every day, including holidays and weekends.”
Menefee said the issue would be under further review and closed the discussion.