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The Gun Bill Shootout

By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY–On the 29th legislative day, the Alabama Legislature was struggling to find an agreement on gun legislation.

Similar issues have already come through Tennessee. One issue in particular, the issue of employers banning employees from keeping a gun in their personal vehicles while on employer property, led to Republican Debra Maggart, the House Republican caucus chair and one of the most powerful women legislators, being slammed by the Tennessee Rifle Association. The TRA spent over $100,000 to cause her to lose her reelection to a newcomer by 14 points, according to the Nashville City Paper.

One of the TRA ads gained national attention for showing Maggart next to President Obama with a caption that read, “Rep. Debra Maggart says she supports your gun rights. Of course, he [President Obama] says the same thing.”

Here in Alabama, Republican legislators faced a similar fear.

Pinned between the competing interests of the National Rifle Association and the Business Council of Alabama, the House introduced and adopted changes to Senator Scott Beason’s (R-Gardendale) gun bill that sent it into conference committee.

At 7:00 p.m. on Thursday–five and a half hours after the joint conference committee was scheduled to begin–the conferees signed the agreement to resolve the disputes on the bill.

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The joint conference committee consisted of three members of each chamber. The three legislators from the House were Representatives David Colston (D-Hayneville), Ed Henry (R-Decatur) and Jack Williams (R-Vestavia Hills). The three legislators from the Senate were Senators Scott Beason (R-Gardendale), Roger Bedford (D-Russellville) and Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville). Senator Rodger Smitherman joined the conference committee to weigh in on the bill, however he did not have voting authority.

The joint conference committee was scheduled to begin at 1:30, however all conferees didn’t enter the room until 2:15.

Debate in the joint conference committee centered around three major discrepancies between the two versions of the bill.

The House version added language to require gun owners to obtain a new pistol permit if they moved to a different county.

Additionally, the committee addressed language on what constituted a “demonstration” for purposes of preventing guns during demonstrations.

The conference committee was unable to resolve several issues, so they recessed the meeting to return to their chambers and continue with the bills on the calendars.

Around 7:00 p.m., the conferees reconvened and signed the agreement without any further debate.

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Legislators praised the bill as an exercise in bipartisanship and a protection for Alabama gun rights. The Senate concurred with the joint conference committee substitute the House did not.

The bill will appear before the House again on Monday, May 20.

Tomorrow, look for a story tracking the bill’s changes throughout the legislative process.

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