By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, July 29, the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) commended Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange (R) for upholding the Second Amendment rights of Alabamians. The AG determined that Alabama Department of Transportation officials had exceeded their authority, and broke State law, by banning guns at the State’s Interstate Rest Areas.
AG Strange said in a statement, “The Second Amendment Rights of Alabamians must be protected, and I am committed to doing so. In a number of cases, violations of Alabama’s gun laws have been corrected after my office’s review. Most notably, ALDOT has agreed to remove signs from all State rest areas prohibiting firearms.”
The “No Guns Allowed” signs were especially galling, after all the work that Second Amendment groups had put into the Omnibus gun bill that passed in 2013. That bill was meant to clarify Alabama’s often conflicting statutes concerning guns and carry rights. Unlike a court room or a prison, there was no compelling State interest in depriving gun owners from their right to carry, either openly, or concealed with a permit at Alabama Rest Stops.
After the issue was brought to his attention by complaints from citizens, AG Strange announced that he would review the policy. AG Strange said in a statement to the citizens who filed the petition:
“I asked ALDOT to explain its legal justification for prohibiting weapons at Rest Stops. ALDOT reviewed a redacted copy of your petition and the relevant portions of State law. During my investigation, I notified ALDOT that its policy did not comply with State law. As a result, the Governor has ordered ALDOT to remove “No Weapons” signs from all Rest Stops.”
Realizing that the “No Guns” signs were indeed a violation of State law, and that the ruling was about to go against the signs, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) ordered the offensive and illegal signs be taken down.
Alabama is an “open carry” State, where any adult citizen, who has not had his or her gun rights stricken for a felony conviction, or mental health reasons, may openly carry firearms, handguns, or long guns on their person. They may also purchase concealed carry permits from their county Sheriff’s office. AG Strange issued a determination that ALDOT had indeed violated State law and had no compelling reason to forbid guns at the Rest Areas.
The Executive Director of the NRA-ILA, Chris W. Cox said, “Our constitutionally protected right to defend ourselves is under constant threat, in many cases by anti-gun bureaucrats or politicians who have overstepped their authority. On behalf of the NRA’s five million members, I want to thank Attorney General Strange for investigating these cases and upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Alabamians. Luther is putting all State bureaucrats and localities on notice, that Alabama will not tolerate any violation of our right to Keep and Bear Arms.”
The NRA-ILA also praised AG Strange’s defense of gun owners in rulings against the City of Moulton and the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department.
AG Strange found the City of Moulton had violated the State’s firearm preemption law by prohibiting firearms at the Moulton Recreation Center and Alexander Park. As a result of Strange’s determination, the City has removed the signs banning guns at those locations.
For many years, Sheriffs in Alabama claimed great latitude in issuing concealed carry permits and many added restrictions, such as you can not consume alcohol or be in a place where alcohol is served while concealed carrying. These extra-legal restrictions varied from one county to another. The Omnibus firearms bill sought to eliminate the restrictions that some Sheriffs were adding to the back of the permits they were issuing.
Some counties continued to issue the old permits with the illegal restrictions. In the third complaint, Strange found that the Lawrence County Sheriff was putting conditions on pistol permits that violated State law. The Sheriff has since agreed to remove that language on the permits.
The NRA is our Nation’s oldest and largest gun rights organization.
AG Strange was elected Attorney General in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. Luther ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor against former Governor Jim Folsom (D) in 2006.
Strange is among a handful of Republicans being talked about as a gubernatorial candidate in 2018.
Incumbent Robert Bentley is prevented from running again due to term limits.