By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Under Alabama Law, any citizen who legally is allowed to possess firearms is allowed to openly carry firearms on their person. Citizens may also apply to their Sheriff’s Department for a concealed carry permit in order to carry weapons on their person concealed. Many gun owners go from open carry to concealed carry just by putting a jacket on. Numerous statutes going back to the 1901 Constitution have affirmed that Alabamians do indeed have weapons rights.
Despite this, the town of Jacksonville passed a legally dubious ordinance restricting those rights. On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court struck down a conviction by lower courts of Jason Dean Tulley under this ordinance. In 2011 Mr. Tulley visited First Educators Credit Union while open carrying. When asked to remove the gun from the premises by the guard (an off duty police officer), Tully dutifully complied. Despite this cooperation, he was arrested and charged with a crime days later by Jacksonville authorities. He was later convicted in Jacksonville Municipal Court and fined $50 plus $200 court costs. The verdict was upheld in Calhoun County Circuit Court and the judge there sentenced Tully to 30 days in jail (later suspended) and six months of probation. Tully appealed to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals which upheld the conviction. The Alabama Supreme Court overturned the lowers courts’ decisions.
Following the 5 to 3 victory, Tully thanked his supporters in the Alabama Second Amendment Rights Community. Tully said in a statement, “My family and I would like to thank everyone for their support. I could not have fought this injustice without the encouragement from the members of BamaCarry and the support from its leadership.”
Tully (who is a member of Alabama’s fastest growing gun rights group, BamaCarry) said, “The city of Jacksonville’s attack on my family started 4-1/2 years ago and has cost well over $20,000.00. Many don’t know a lot of the details but after I was first charged I had multiple attorneys. When I first spoke to different attorneys they all agreed that I clearly had not committed a crime. One by one they took my money and expressed that they believed the charges should and would be dropped. Every one of them resigned and returned the money after talking to the prosecutor. They all made similar statements like ‘they want to make an example out of you’ and ‘I have to eat after this case.’”
Tully said, “Eventually, we had to travel out of the area for an attorney that would take the case. Prior to trial my attorney spoke with the city prosecutor, Chris Mcintyre. At this time, they were given the option to drop all charges and I would agree not to pursue damages. Even with all of the evidence provided, we (Jacksonville) do not drop charges against criminals. The Municipal Court found me guilty. James Clayton, the off duty police officer that was working as a security guard was the only witness to testify. He had multiple condescending remarks including, ‘only cops should be armed.’”
The Majority opinion was written by Associate Justice Michael F. Bolin. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the state statute making it a crime to carry firearms on the premises of another person has long since been made null and void by subsequent statutes so, “At the time of Tulley’s alleged offense, § 13A-11-52 was unconstitutional on its face, and the City’s purported adoption of that offense as an offense against the City by general reference in Ordinance No. O-514-10 was a nullity. Accordingly, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to convict Tulley.”
“The offense of carrying a pistol ‘about his person on premises not his own or under his control’ within the City’s corporate limits did not exist,” the ruling states.
Associate Justice Lyn Stuart dissented with the decision and wrote, “A determination of the constitutionality of the ordinance is irrelevant to whether the municipal court and the circuit court had jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case. Because I believe that the municipal court and the circuit court had subject-matter jurisdiction, i.e., the constitutional and statutory authority to decide this case, I respectfully dissent.” Associate Justice Glenn Murdock concurred with Stuart’s decision. Associate Justice Greg Shaw wrote his own separate dissent.
Chief Justice Roy Moore and Associate Justices: Tom Parker, Tommy Bryan, and James Allen Main all concurred with the Bolin decision to overturn Tulley’s conviction.
Tully concluded, “Throughout this ordeal, the City has made several attempts to publicly criminalize me in a very small community. The prosecution gave half-truths in court even resorting to bold face lies at times. I digress. This was meant to be a statement of gratitude from my family and I. This fight is not over as the city will soon find out how it feels to defend itself in court.”
The decision is a victory for gun rights groups, particularly BamaCarry which boasts over 10,000 dues paying members from across Alabama. The group promotes less government restrictions on the ability of Alabamians to exercise their Second Amendment rights.