Gun permits are a small, but necessary, restriction

February 22, 2017

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

Many innocent (and otherwise) people are killed by gun violence in this state and nation every year. Mass shootings are commonplace. I guess that’s why I continue to be baffled by proposals that make firearms even easier to acquire and to conceal than ever before.

We don’t learn. We don’t even try to.

Just after the new year, the U.S. Congress repealed an Obama administration regulation that made it more difficult for people with mental health issues to obtain guns. Why would Congress do anything that makes it easier for the mentally ill to obtain guns?

Because guns are part of the American culture. For eight years, opponents of President Obama hollered that the federal government was going after their guns. That never happened. The Second Amendment is safe. Safer than it ought to be.

But people who argue we need fewer restrictions on gun ownership, or where guns can be carried, or how they are carried, are misguided.

Last year in this space, I was arguing against a terrible proposal from state Rep. Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) to allow folks with conceal carry pistol permits to take them to state college campuses.

As an English instructor at UAB, this was scary to me.

“I don’t want my students (or any students, or teachers, or anybody except the UAB police department) to carry weapons to class,” I wrote for APR about this time last year. “I give F’s every now and then. I certainly don’t want a student who can’t write a simple college essay to bring a pistol to class. Especially on those days I return graded papers.”

Fortunately, Butler’s proposed constitutional amendment failed. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if it didn’t somehow resurface.

One bill that is out there this year is from Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa). His bill, sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee right now, would allow gun owners to conceal carry without a required permit and background check.

Just stuff your Glock in your pocket and take off.

The bill (SB24) also would allow people to pack even when attending high-tension public protests or other functions. How can officers properly police an event when guns not only are permitted, but also hidden as well?

I wholeheartedly agree with Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning, who strongly opposes Allen’s bill.

It is true that sheriff’s offices in the state make money by issuing pistol permits. That could be one factor in a sheriff’s opposition to a bill that would do away with what some see as a cash cow (gun owners still would need a conceal carry permit to take their weapons out of state). Even so, at least the sheriff’s offices are backgrounding those who apply for conceal carry permits. Remove the permit requirement, and the background check also is removed.

There’s a common-sense component working here, too.

Writes Dorning in a message on the Madison County Sheriff’s’ Office website to residents of his county: “The repeal of the current statute will allow everyone who was previously denied a lawful permit to now be able to conceal a handgun in their vehicle to drive or walk freely to attend church services, enter a movie theatre, football stadium, business or other gatherings in our communities.”

Dorning continues: “A law enforcement officer cannot stop a person from having a handgun and committing a crime, but every precaution available, to include a background check by your local Sheriff’s Office, should be taken to prevent a person convicted of a crime of violence from hiding a gun on his person and walk freely in our neighborhoods and communities.”

Again, both Dorning (and I) support the Second Amendment. But the Second Amendment does not prohibit reasonable restrictions on gun ownership or possession.

Imagine what may be going through a law enforcement officer’s mind when approaching, say, the driver of a car just pulled over for speeding. Sure, officers use plenty of caution anyway, but without a permit requirement, the pressure on officers will increase. Officers could be even more aggressive, risking deadly mistakes. Or such a situation could lead to less enforcement of traffic and other laws.

After all, why take a chance?

Writes Dorning: “I fully support and defend our right to keep and bear arms as written by our Founding Fathers of the Constitution reinforced in the Second Amendment. This proposed legislation of SB24 is an attack on the safety of law enforcement. Let our Police Officers and Deputy Sheriff’s properly do their jobs to keep concealed handguns from persons whose backgrounds include court convictions of previous violent actions where a victim has been assaulted and/or attacked.”

Other law enforcement leaders — and not only sheriffs, either – agree with Dorning (he’s just the latest), because requiring a permit and background check before a person is granted the privilege of concealing his weapon just makes sense.

What we need is more common sense in our gun laws, not less.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

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