By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, May 19, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will consider HB47 which clarifies a number of questions in Alabama’s gun laws. Second Amendment groups in Alabama are deeply divided over the compromise legislation.
The Bill is sponsored by State Representative Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa). Sen. Arthur Orr (R) is expected to carry the bill in the Senate. The Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs for Alabama Gun Rights Shanna Chamblee announced, “Senator Orr is happy to work with Alabama Gun Rights Inc. Thank you Senator Orr for your willingness to carry good gun rights legislation (HB47 Substitute bill). It was a pleasure speaking with you today.”
AGR wrote in a statement, “HB47 represents another advance by AGR in maintaining and securing gun rights for all Alabamians. In a time of pointed partisanship, AGR’s Legislative Team was able to bring all parties to the table, utilizing our relationships with key members of the Legislature and other interested organizations, to negotiate a Bill agreeable and beneficial to all. Thanks to all of you for your continued support of AGRN, and we are already working with our partners on our 2015 Conference to identify, draft, and propose legislation for the 2016 Legislative Session!”
BamaCarry is opposed to the legislation as it passed in the Alabama House of Representatives.
According to BamaCarry, “From a Gun Rights perspective, this bill does give a few minor concessions:
1. It adds Duress as a defense for Menacing and Reckless Endangerment.
2. It restores the legality of someone taking their under-18 child to the range to learn to shoot.
3. Restores the ability to store your weapon in your vehicle on the premises of hospitals that provide mental health care.”
The compromise given for these small gains in the restoration of our rights is heavy:
1. It does reduce the distance someone with a weapon must maintain from a demonstration, per §13A-11-59, from 1,000 feet to 300 feet, however, it makes it unlawful from any distance for you to have a firearm which is visible to anyone at the demonstration. In effect, you can now be charged, at any distance, so long as a spectator or participant claims they felt threatened by the mere presence of you exercising your fundamental right to bear arms. This sets a dangerous precedent to a law, which is probably unconstitutional on its face, by now claiming it to be more narrowly tailored. You will be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.
2. Instead of clarifying confusion such as the definition of the “other barriers” specified in §13A-11-61.2(b), this Bill leaves the confusion in place and adds a penalty of Class C misdemeanor for a violation of §13A-11-61.2(b). Currently, there is much confusion over exactly what constitutes a §13A-11-61.2(b) facility. There are Publicly Owned Properties around the state that now have “No Firearms” signs placed on them that should be protected by the State Preemption Law, §13A-11-61.3(a). Complaints to the AG as to the reasons these places were found compliant have gone unanswered in disregard of §13A-11- 61.3(f)(3). This confusion is heightened by the existence of signs provided by various sheriffs throughout the state which declare the signed private properties which are open to the public are §13A-11-61.2(b) compliant, when they appear,to reasonable interpreters, to be non-compliant. Currently, per §13A-11-52, a person may carry his pistol on private property not his own if he has a permit.
3. It changes §13A-11-72 to specify that anyone subject to a valid protection order for domestic abuse, or anyone of unsound mind cannot own a firearm. This change is to make the statute line up with federal law 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1-9). However, under current Alabama statute §13A-11-72 persons who have been convicted of a crime of violence are prohibited from owning a pistol. This has been applied to allow such persons to own long guns for hunting purposes. This will become illegal under Alabama law under this Bill.
4. Section 3 of this Bill, which is new code, specifies that no person may carry a loaded firearm under certain conditions involving alcohol and/or controlled substances. On its face, this would appear to be a good statute. However, this section contains a measure of blood alcohol level as a condition, followed by a completely subjective condition regarding alcohol and/or controlled substances:
(1) There is 0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol in his or her blood.
(2) He or she is under the influence of alcohol to such a degree as to render him or her incapable of safely operating a firearm. It contains a version of (2) for alcohol and/or controlled substances. The problem is there is no specified way for determination of (2). This leaves this completely subjective judgement up to the discretion of the Law Enforcement Officer on the scene. Additionally, the use of the term “controlled substances” instead of “illegal drugs” or “illegal narcotics” would technically include the use of certain antihistamines. While we do not condone consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs while carrying a firearm, there are already laws on the books that deal with the abuse of these things.”
AGR admits the bill is a compromise, “Even when HB47 has passed and become law, there will still be things that can be improved upon. We live in an imperfect world but that does not mean we do not strive for bettering our lives each time we have the chance. SB 286 was not perfect, but it did a lot of good; HB47 is not perfect but it does a lot of good. long before next legislative session, we have in fact already started working on more legislation to make things even better.”
The National Rifleman’s Association (NRA) Spokesperson Catherine Mortensen said, “The NRA supports the original provisions of the bill , which eliminate both Alabama’s unduly restrictive minor possession of pistols law and the state’s handgun registration scheme. These two provisions are critical to protecting Alabaman’s Second Amendment freedoms not only today, but for future generations, as well.”
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.