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Showdown Over Gun Rights Expected Today in Senate Committee

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, February 17, Second Amendment Groups and some members of law enforcement are expected to be speaking on opposing sides at a public hearing on Senate Bill 14 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Room 325 at 1:00 pm.

Senate Bill 14 would extend Alabama’s “castle doctrine” to include citizen’s personal vehicles.

SB14 is sponsored by State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa).

Senator Allen wrote “You have a fundamental Second Amendment right to defend your family and home with a firearm. We shouldn’t require free citizens to get a gun permit to defend their person and property, and that should include your vehicle. I have introduced a bill for the 2016 legislative session that will extend Alabama’s existing castle doctrine to a person’s vehicle”

SB14 would give Alabamians the right to travel the roads with our loaded firearms if a need for lethal force should arise.

Sen. Allen said in a statement, “I believe in the fundamental right of law abiding Alabama citizens to self defense while in his/her vehicle. A vehicle is extension of your home and you should have the right to defend yourself in your vehicle without having to buy a pistol permit.”

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Under current state law, every lawfully owning gun owner may keep their weapon with them in their automobile; but it must be out of reach, locked in a box, unloaded.  Alabama is an open carry state, meaning that it is perfectly legal to go to town with your gun strapped to your hip where everybody can see it.  However it is not legal to have that firearm with you on your person in your car, unless you have purchased a concealed carry permit from your local sheriff’s office.  Presently, to be legal, citizens who open carry without a permit have to take that weapon out of it’s holster, unload it, and put in a locked box, away from reach like a trunk, then reverse the process to leave the vehicle.  This rather strange way of doing things was the result of compromises in the 2013 Omnibus Gun Bill. Most gun owners recognize that there are difficulties with this regimen and purchase the concealed carry permit.

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This is where the problem is.  The Alabama Sheriff’s Association is concerned that allowing lawful carry in automobiles could lead to more road rage incidents and more armed confrontations with motorists as well as fewer concealed carry permits sold and a loss of revenue for the Sheriff’s departments.  Alabamians hold more concealed carry permits per capita than do residents of any other state so this is not an inconsequential amount of money.

SB14 advocates, like BamaCarry, argue that this is not true.  People that lawfully carry now will renew their permits to keep the option of carrying concealed they argue

According to original reporting by Channel 48’s Jake Berent, the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, ALEA, the Huntsville Police, the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department and several other organizations are all planning on attending the bill’s hearing Wednesday, and voicing their opposition to the Second Amendment rights bill.

BamaCarry President Eddie Fulmer said in a statement, ”SB14 will only allow non-prohibited people who are legally able to own a firearm to carry in their vehicle. Every state around us allows this without problems. This is about money, permit money. There is no way for the officer pulling over a vehicle to know if you have a permit or not. Will a permit keep a person who wants to do harm from carrying a loaded firearm in their vehicle? I think not.”

State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) supports the legislation to allow citizens to carry loaded guns in their vehicles without receiving permission from the state.  Zeigler said, “An armed citizen preventing a crime is worth a ton of law enforcement apprehending and investigating after the crime is done.”  “To prevent a crime, it does not take a village.  It takes an armed citizen, ready to defend, trained in the use of his weapon, and with a plan.  A plan to defend his home.  A plan to defend his vehicle.  A plan to defend his business.  The ideal call to 911 is a call to report a dead thug.  In your home.  Shot by the homeowner.”

Zeigler addressed BamaCarry on Saturday in Bessemer.  He said, “YOU are making a difference in Alabama.  Many of you have filed complaints against illegal gun-free signs on government property.  Because of you, the illegal no-gun signs are coming down.   Are we finished yet in getting rid of defense-free zones where only criminals will have guns?  No.  But we are now on the offense instead of the defense.”  Zeigler said, “Because of you, bills are making progress to: Recognize that college students have second amendment rights.  Campus carry.  To recognize that drivers and passengers in vehicles have second amendment rights.  Guns in your vehicle with no government permit required.  We will not be satisfied until all citizens have the recognized right to carry a gun without getting a permit from the government.  We call this “Constitutional Carry.””

Last year Allen’s permit-less vehicle carry bill, SB14, passed out of the Senate; but languished in a House Committee for weeks.  It eventually got committee passage; but the House leadership kept it from getting to the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives for a vote before the 2015 regular session expired.

This year the Alabama House Republican Caucus announced that they favor: “Preserving Second Amendment Constitutional Rights – The Alabama House Republican Caucus pledges to assist members of our federal delegation in overturning Barack Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders attacking our Second Amendment right to own firearms.” 

If that means actually advancing SB14 and State Representative Mack Butler’s (R-Rainbow City) House Bill 12 to allow college students to carry concealed on campus, nobody knows yet.

 

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