By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
A pro-gun Republican dominated State legislature voted to put Amendment 3 on the Alabama ballot, even though the National Rifleman’s Association (NRA) endorsed the pro-gun amendment. As expected, there is some opposition building to adding more gun rights language to the Alabama Constitution. But, rather than coming from National anti-gun groups, the opposition is coming from a small, yet vocal segment of Alabama’s gun rights community who think the new language might weaken the existing gun rights language in Alabama’s 1901 Constitution.
The House Republican Caucus has released a statement promoting amendment three and urging voters to pass it into the state Constitution on November 4.
The Alabama House GOP Caucus wrote on Facebook, “Amendment 3 establishes that the right to bear arms in Alabama is afforded the highest constitutional protections against any potential state or local government infringement on the right to bear arms. It’s also endorsed by the National Rifle Association.”
The House GOP caucus said in a statement, “Amendment 3 makes it explicitly clear in Alabama’s Constitution that under Alabama law, the right of Alabama citizens to bear arms is a fundamental right, entitled to the highest protections of the law. It creates maximum constitutional safeguards against liberal judges and politicians in Washington D.C. and on the local level from trying to enact gun control measures in Alabama. It also provides greater gun rights protections from interference by unconstitutional international treaties or foreign laws.”
The Alabama Republican Caucus wrote that voters should vote for Amendment 3; because: “Amendment 3 establishes that the right to bear arms in Alabama is afforded the highest constitutional protections against any potential state or local government infringement on the right to bear arms. Alabama’s standards would make gun rights in Alabama stronger and more protected than the current standards of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The GOP State representatives wrote, “Currently, our Alabama Constitution does not contain language clarifying the right to bear arms as a fundamental right. In addition, rulings from the United States Supreme Court and lower federal courts have failed to establish the highest constitutional protections for the right to bear arms – also known as “strict scrutiny.” Amendment 3 ensures that our constitution has the greatest possible protections for your right to bear arms.”
Amendment 3 has been endorsed by gun rights organizations including, the National Rifle Association, the Alabama Gun Rights Association, the Second Amendment Foundation, Gun Owners of America, and the Citizens Committee on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
Still many gun rights advocates are wary of the amendment. The Alabama House GOP responded to what they call a, “myth.” The argument of the anti-Amendment 3 people is that it potentially, “Opens the door for future courts or State legislatures, under the sway of leftists, to impose restrictions on Alabamians’ gun rights.”
The House GOP Caucus responds that: “Amendment 3 makes it more not less difficult for future state or local governments or courts to impose restrictions on Alabamians’ gun rights. Amendment 3 ensures that if any liberal-leaning state judge or government body tries to restrict gun rights in the future, those rights are protected by the highest possible constitutional protections – strict scrutiny. Strict scrutiny is a well-established legal term which provides constitutionally recognized fundamental rights with the highest protections of law against any proposed government infringement of that right. Amendment 3 provides greater constitutional protections than what currently exists, making it tougher for a court to approve any future law restricting your right to bear arms.”
The House GOP caucus says it is also a “myth” that: “Amendment 3 takes away the God-given and natural right of self-defense recognized in the existing wording of Section 26 of the Alabama Constitution and transforms it into a mere “fundamental right” which is subject to government restrictions. OR Our right to bear arms for defense is already recognized as a “fundamental” right in our Declaration of Rights in the Alabama Constitution.”
The Republican legislators respond to that argument that: “Fundamental rights are our most sacred rights under the constitution. The language in Section 26 of Alabama’s Constitution only refers to a citizen’s bearing arms as a “right.” Amendment 3 elevates Alabama’s constitutional language regarding the right to bear arms to a fundamental right that is given the highest possible protection under state law. Fundamental rights are provided more protection from government interference than other standard legal “rights.” Although the right to bear arms is one of our sacred rights, the current language of Alabama’s Constitution does not provide the absolute protection that some have argued because the right to bear arms is not defined and does not state what goes beyond simply “bearing arms.” Our state courts have also ruled that Section 2 of the Alabama Constitution gives ultimate authority to the citizens to legally and lawfully remove any provision from the Constitution which they previously put in or ratified, even our Declaration of Rights.”
Another myth that they address is that: “Strict scrutiny is already the standard for interpretation in cases involving gun rights or other fundamental rights.”
The GOP’s response is that: “Different courts have used different levels of scrutiny in cases involving gun rights. Nowhere in federal or state law or case law does it require strict security to be applied to cases involving gun rights. The United States Supreme Court and lower federal courts have failed to establish the highest constitutional protections for the right to bear arms – also known as “strict scrutiny.” As such, many state and lower federal courts have sometimes applied a lower level of protection (i.e., “intermediate scrutiny”) against government infringement. Amendment 3 specifically states that strict scrutiny must be used against a state or local government in cases where the right to bear arms is sought to be restricted.”
The Republican lawmakers addressed another “myth.” That: “The state is not currently permitted to impose any restrictions on your God-given right to self-defense, and Amendment 3 will give the government this authority.”
The Alabama House Republican Caucus responded that it is a “FACT” that, “Federal, State and local governments can and have imposed certain restrictions on gun rights for many years. Federal and State courts have generally agreed that government can impose “reasonable regulations” on the right to bear arms. For example, there is nothing about pistol permits or background checks in our state constitution, but they have been upheld by our courts and other courts around the country as reasonable regulations for the good of the public’s safety. Amendment 3 will make it much more difficult for state and local governments to impose restrictions on Alabamians’ gun rights, and will especially help prevent local governments from enforcing local ordinances that go beyond imposing reasonable regulations on gun rights.”
The House GOP Caucus also said that Amendment 3 will not allow felons to legally carry guns. The Caucus wrote: “Alabama law continues to prohibit felons from legally possessing firearms. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld bans in state laws against possession of firearms by felons. This is a prime example of a state or local restriction on firearms that would meet the “strict scrutiny” standard under Amendment 3. Louisiana had this same concern when the state passed its “strict scrutiny” constitutional amendment in 2012 and that argument has been laid to rest by the Louisiana Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision earlier this year, the Court held that its law preventing the possession of firearms by convicted felons (Alabama has a similar law) was not affected by their amendment (which was similar to Alabama’s Amendment 3) and that it withstands a strict scrutiny analysis.”
The voters will get to decide this matter on November 4.
Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on five of those counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another count.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his entrance should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.
Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83
The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”
Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.
Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.
The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.
While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.
Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”
His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.
This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.