By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday the Alabama House of Representatives voted to carry over debate on House Bill 8, The Alabama Firearms Protection Amendment.
HB 8 creates a constitutional amendment (CA) to, “the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 to provide that citizens of Alabama have a fundamental right to bear arms and that any restriction on this right would be subject to strict scrutiny; and to provide that no international treaty or international law shall prohibit, limit, or otherwise interfere with a citizen’s fundamental right to bear arms.” This amendment if passed by the legislature and voted into the Constitution by the people of Alabama would give Alabama’s 1901 Constitution the strongest gun protection provisions in the country.
HB 8 is sponsored by Representative Mike Jones (R) from Andalusia.
Rep. Merika Coleman Evans (D) from Birmingham asked, ‘If this bill were to pass, what actual net affect would this have? Are we just sending a message or will we have a net impact?
Rep. Jones said that both 2nd amendment decisions were 5-4 decisions so if there is a change in the makeup of the Supreme Court where future Supreme Court decisions were made allowing governments to infringe upon gun rights then the language in this Amendment would give the state of Alabama legal standing to challenge future federal gun control efforts under the Tenth Amendment. Jones (an attorney) said, “It would give us standing in court. You don’t get into court without standing.” Jones acknowledged that the Supremacy clause in the Constitution would mean that an international treaty ratified by the Congress and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as Constitutional would nullify this amendment to the Alabama Constitution; but argued that it likely would trump a treaty signed by the President and enforced solely by executive order. Jones said that this amendment would change the level of judicial review to “strict scrutiny” which is a very difficult standard to meet.
Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville said to Jones, “I appreciate you bringing the bill.” McClendon said many of his constituents have contacted him about their concerns that their gun rights could be infringed upon.
Rep. Micky Hammon (R) from Decatur said, “We have met people all over the state that are concerned about gun rights.” “We need to give the people of Alabama maximum protection from both international law and from Washington.”
Rep. Laura Hall (D) from Huntsville said, “I come from a family that loves to hunt. I do think that as we have this conversation there has to be a happy medium. This does not make any sense to me what you are trying to do.” “Why is this important?”
An amendment passed to the bill adding a second “international” in front of “law” to make it clear that the amendment applies to international law.
Rep Jones said that this amendment is the most that we can do as a state to protect citizens gun rights. “If it is properly ratified it would have authority in our state.” “The power that you and I and the people of the state of Alabama have is to amend the Constitution of the State of Alabama.”
Rep. John Rogers (D) from Birmingham said, “This amendment is kind of confusing to me.” “I have no problem with guns.” “Why are we getting involved in something internationally?”
Rep. Mary Moore (D) from Birmingham said that Congress would not agree to any treaty that would violate the U.S. Constitution. “We would hope that there would be a great uprising if Congress passed a treaty that violated what the Constitution already says.” Moore said that the amendment was just a, “Feel good moment” and was “Just another exercise to make us look like we are unlearned.”
The bill appeared to be headed toward passage when Minority Leader Craig Ford (D) from Gadsden was waiting in line to speak. Before his turn to speak, a motion was entered to hold over this debate and move on to the next item on the calendar.
Rep. Ford told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that he had intended to add an amendment to the CA prohibiting employers from prohibiting employees from keeping their lawful firearms locked in their personal vehicles in company parking lot. Under current Alabama law, a business owner can arbitrarily fire any employee simply for having a gun in his automobile even if the employee has a permit for the weapon.
Rep. Ford and Senator Roger Bedford (D) from Russellville have led a bipartisan effort to protect the gun rights of Alabama workers.
The extremely powerful and well-funded Business Council of Alabama (BCA) has opposed any move that might in any way infringe on corporations’ power to do whatever they want to do regarding guns. Republican legislators are fearful of angering either the deep pockets of the BCA or Alabama gun owners. The delay gives the House leadership time to address this issue at a later date.