By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–On Thursday, SB286 was the center of Senate debate on the floor finally passing with a vote of 27-5 in the early evening. This controversial bill is commonly referred to as the “gun bill.” The bill’s sponsor, Senator Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) spent most of his day at the podium answering questions and concerns from fellow Senators, both Democrat and Republican. Amendment after amendment were placed up for a vote; few were adopted including two offered by the sponsor.
Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) offered and passed an amendment stating that gun show would only require one business license for the event instead of requiring each booth occupant to obtain an individual business license.
Senator Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) offered and passed an amendment that would remove liability from a business owner should a weapon be discharged by a customer of a business resulting in injury. He argued that it would be impossible in certain businesses for an owner to be able to anticipate and preempt such an occurrence.
Senator Roger Bedford (D-Russellville) is the co-sponsor of the bill and stated that SB286 was a combination of both Bedford’s and Beason’s original bills. The bill worked on the floor today was a substitute to the original. Changes added another nine pages to the length of the bill:
“I think this is an important bill for the gun owners of Alabama and for all people of Alabama because it clearly defines some gray areas that have existed in our laws,” said Bedford.
According to the sponsors, this bill would further define where it is permissible to carry a firearm, concealed or not.
In explaining the bill’s origins, Beason said, “People wanted to know why we are changing it. If you begin to speak to people about what they thought they could do and couldn’t do regarding firearms in the state of Alabama, it was very interesting to find out that most Alabamians don’t understand [where guns can be carried].”
One of the most discussed point of the bill is having a firearm in a vehicle. Beason said, “State law says you put your gun in your car and close the door; it is now a concealed weapon.” Also, state law says that an employee may not keep a firearm in their car during work hours if the business owner/property owner does not consent.
The bill covers many points. Some of the more discussed are:
- “would consolidate certain preemption language regarding the authority of counties and municipalities to regulate certain activity related to firearms…”
- “would provide for possession of a pistol in a motor vehicle and would provide that the mere presence of a pistol in a vehicle does no create a presumption that the pistol is concealed.”
- “establish a rebuttable presumption that the carrying of a firearm under certain circumstances, in and of itself, constitute the crime of disorderly conduct.”
- “provide issuance of a lifetime vehicle-only permit…”
- “require a sheriff to issue or deny a concede pistol permit within 30 days…”
- “would specify certain eligibility requirements for issuance of pistol permits…and fees.”
- “Provide for the carrying of a pistol on certain property…”
- “allow employees to transport or store a firearm in the employee’s privately-owned motor vehicle…”
Sheriff departments across the state have expressed strong opposition to the bill saying that it opens up too many opportunities, and have had their representatives at the Statehouse lobbying Senators for changes.
After a filibuster by Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) resulted in the invoking of cloture, the bill was read at length. The entire debate lasted almost eight hours but resulted in passage. The bill now will be transmitted to the House for assignment to committee.