By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Guns will continue to be a headline issue for 2013.
Not only does Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) have a commission looking into school safety with the possibility of arming teachers, there are also competing bills that would allow individuals to carry firearms to work and keep them stored in their vehicles.
The first bill sponsored Democrat Senator Roger Bedford (D-Russelllville) is legislation that has been endorsed by the NRA (National Rile Association). It is widely known as the “Parking Lot Bill,” and is favored by most gun owners.
It is said that Bedford’s bill so alarmed Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) that the pair made a hasty trip to Washington, DC, to meet with representatives of the NRA. What would cause Hubbard and Marsh such worry and consternation?
In the 2012 Alabama legislative session Senator Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville) tried to pass NRA-backed Senate Bill 331, a bill that would given gun owners the right to carry firearms to work but leave them locked in their cars. In the end, the bill was killed by Republicans not Democrats, the pressure to defeat the bill was brought to bare by Hubbard and Marsh at the command of Billy Canary, the head of the Business Council of Alabama, (BCA). In the mind of Mr. Canary, business owners property rights trump the rights of the second amendment. Canary, Hubbard and Marsh are said to form the Triumvirate of the new corporatist elite controlling state politics. The new leadership has replaced the idea of individual conservative right with a pro-business-rights movement. The BCA has never been much of a legislative powerhouse but after the 2010 GOP takeover, it has continued gaining ground because of the deep relationship between Hubbard, Marsh and Canary.
In last few years, the NRA has become dispirited by such corporatist conservatives and has gone looking for conservative Democrats to carry its bill in state government. The NRA ‘s so-called parking-lot bills have been passed in 20 states since 2004 according to the WSJ.com. These bill’s allow employees to “bring firearms—ranging from handguns, rifles and shotguns—to work and store them in their vehicles, even against an employer’s wishes,” reported the WJS.com. But in what is a turn of events, it is now Republicans who have turned on the NRA and Conservative Democrats that have taken up the legislation.
In Tennessee, Republican Rep. Debra Maggart opposed the NRA bill and found herself losing to her NRA-backed democrat opponent.
Craig Ford, speaking to the WSJ.com in November said, “Republicans would rather side with big business,” adding that Ms. Maggart’s defeat in Tennessee “set a precedent for what the NRA is going to do elsewhere.”
Ford and other conservative democrats look to find a winning edge over corporate republicans in the future with these individual rights issues.
It appears the trip Marsh and Hubbard took to DC has caused the GOP to offer their own omnibus gun bill. Reporting for the “Gadsden Times” Dana Beyerle wrote in early December that “The National Rifle Association wants to go beyond a workplace parking lot gun possession bill in the 2013 legislative session and will back an omnibus bill that would make other firearm law changes.” Beyerle reported that Senator Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville) and Senator Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) are working on a gun bill that would include workplace parking lot possession rights and a major change for sheriffs who issue pistol permits.
Beason, a Tea Party favorite, has credibility with second amendment conservative in Alabama, so it will be interesting to watch and see if the corporate interest can defeat the NRA bill in the 2013 session. As for the conservative arm of the democratic party it looks to be an uphill fight to reclaim the high ground as Hubbard and Marsh will look for a compromise that doesn’t give the Dems any victories in the near future.
While the crack in the GOP between constitutional conservatives and corporatist continues to grow, bills like the one supported by the NRA will show which faction of the GOP has the mojo for 2014.