By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 286. The Omnibus Gun bill sponsored by Senator Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale and carried in the House of Representatives by Representatives Ed Henry (R) from Hartselle was a priority of the Alabama National Rifleman’s Association (NRA).
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said, “After all of the changes to this bill, I applaud Sen. Beason and Rep. Henry for not losing focus and guiding this bill to passage. This is a good bill that protects our Second Amendment rights and allows Alabamians to better protect themselves.” “In a time when Washington D.C. is attempting to take away our guns and limit our rights, it is refreshing to see our elected officials in Alabama listening to constituents and responding in a positive way. The best way to reduce gun crime is to allow law-abiding citizens to bear arms, and that is exactly what this bill does.”
House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D) from Gadsden said, “I have always been a supporter of the second amendment and was prepared to bring an amendment to the Republicans’ signature gun bill that would have protected an employees’ right to keep their firearm stored safely in their vehicle while parked at work. But Republicans did not want to vote on this amendment. Doing so would have put them in between the Business Council of Alabama, which opposed the amendment, and the NRA, which supports the amendment. In the end, the Republican Supermajority passed a heavily watered-down version of the amendment in a different gun bill. This legislation was a part of the Republicans’ legislative agenda for this year, and they almost couldn’t pass it because of the divide between the business interests that fund their campaigns and many of the grassroots voters that elected them in the first place.”
The Alabama Political Reporter talked with Barry Cleland and other members of Alabama Gun Rights (AGR) and they were jubilant over passage of the bill. The Omnibus Gun Bill allows those who possess a valid Alabama pistol permit to keep firearms stored in their vehicle while at work. It will also allow anyone who has a valid Alabama hunting license store an unloaded rifle or shotgun in their vehicle while at work. It allows Alabamans to transport a handgun in a vehicle without an Alabama pistol permit as long as the handgun is unloaded, locked in a container and out of reach of the driver or passenger. It changes Alabama from being a “May Issue” concealed carry permit system to a “Shall Issue” permit system and requires that a sheriff must issue or deny the carry permit within thirty days. If someone is denied a permit, a written denial must be provided and the applicant will have an opportunity to appeal. Applicants can ask for a five year concealed carry permit, but any Alabama Concealed Carry Permit expires if you get residency in another state. SB286 requires that sheriffs use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for background check on concealed pistol permits. SB286 allows for all other valid state-issued concealed carry permits to be recognized in Alabama.
Importantly Alabama’s firearms preemption statute reserves to the state legislature complete control over regulation and policy relating to firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories. It also extends the Castle Doctrine to places of business.
Rep. Ed Henry (R) from Hartselle said on the floor of the Alabama House that the conference committee had limited the exemption for weapons carry in county commission and city council meetings to just when Commission or Council was actually meeting. As long the building is not a court house it will be legal to carry in those buildings if there is not a meeting in session. Alabama citizens will be able to concealed carry in sporting events unless there are security measures in place. If there are no guards, barricades, metal detector, or biometric screening at the sporting you would not be allowed to carry there. You can carry if there are no security measures and there is not sign at the facility prohibiting carry there. Any Alabama citizen who can legally possess a gun will now be able to carry that weapon openly provided that it is secured, unless there is a sign posted publicly on that property by the property owner forbidding weapon carry there (that would also prevent concealed carry).
Henry said that buildings and facilities that prohibit weapons carry (concealed or open) must post signs. Businesses can not prevent people from keeping guns in their cars if they have permits. Nothing in the law will be construed to prevent law enforcement for acting if they have a reasonable suspicion that a person may about to commit a crime.
Rep. Henry said, “We should have the right to protect ourselves. It is not up to the Governor. It is not up to the police to protect us we want to be able to protect ourselves.”
Rep. James Buskey (D) from Mobile said, “I want to vote with the Mobile Chamber of Commerce and the BCA. I am standing up here fighting for their position.” “I am with them on this issue.” I am with the BCA on this issue until I hear something different from them.”
Rep. Henry said, “BCA was at the table and we did our best to give them what they wanted. They demanded an opt out clause for businesses I couldn’t do that.” “BCA does not support the bill but they like it a lot better than the bill that came out of the Senate.”
The House voted to concur with the Senate by a margin of 73 to 28.