By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, February 18, hundreds of sheriff’s deputies and police officers from all over the State joined Alabama Governor Bentley (R) at the state capital to lay a wreath at the memorial for officers who have laid down their lives protecting and serving the people of Alabama. It was bad timing for permit-less carry in vehicles supporters because over a hundred of those officers stayed in Montgomery later that afternoon to support the Alabama Sheriff’s Association and Alabama Police Chiefs Association in their efforts to defeat Senate Bill 14 at a public hearing before the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee. Law enforcement officers, including some Sheriffs and police chiefs filled the ,committee meeting room, an adjoining committee room, and overflowed out into the halls.
SB14 is sponsored by Alabama Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa). Sen. Allen told the committee that the Senate passed this same bill in the 2015 legislative session 24 to 4. The bill removes the requirement of a concealed carry permit to carry a loaded weapon in your vehicle and changes the law so that carrying handguns could not lead to a disturbing the peace charge.
Sen. Allen said, “Alabama is the only state in the deep south where you have to have a concealed carry permit to keep a loaded firearm in your vehicle. If you are for this bill then you are for the second amendment. If you oppose this bill you are for gun control.”
The Alabama Sheriff’s Association said that they are not opposed to the Second Amendment. They are for background checks in order to be able to carry weapons. This is the fourth time we have been here to oppose this. We appreciate you not giving it a favorable report.
Eddie Fulmer said I am the President of BamaCarry Incorporated. We have 17,000 members on social media and are approaching 1,500 vested members. We are asking you to pass SB14. The right to carry loaded weapons in our vehicles was taken away from us by your predecessors in 1956. We don’t ask for much, but we do want our rights restored. Many of the Sheriffs behind me proclaimed they were pro second Amendment when they ran for office. I am asking that you listen to the people and not the power hungry who are worried about permit money. Not all Sheriff’s are opposed to this bill. Sheriff Mike Hale in Jefferson County favors this bill.
Fulmer asked that the Senators, “Give us our rights back” and said that their members would remember those that would not.
Barry Cleveland with the Alabama Gun Rights Network said that his group opposed the bill because the disturbing the peace provision extended to long guns. Strike out firearms and put in pistol so that people who carry an AR 15, rifle, or shotgun in Wal-Mart can be charged with disorderly conduct and we will support it. “We support permit-less vehicle carry; but this is not that big of an issue.” We will support this bill if you strike that one word out.
Sonny Braswell with the Association of County Commissioners also spoke in opposition. We all came together and in 2013 passed comprehensive gun bill and included discussion of gun rights in vehicles. A compromise that resulted allowed people to carry firearms in their vehicle without a permit as long as they not loaded and are out of reach. We all agreed then. I am not sure what has happened since then for people to be undoing what everyone agreed to when everybody agreed to the comprehensive gun bill.
Chief Tommy Reed said that he was speaking on behalf of the Alabama Police Chiefs Association. I was shot by an individual with a gun. He had kidnapped a woman and I got shot when he fired a round as I was getting out of my car. If there was a way for the sheriffs to deny that man a gun he would not have had one. The Sheriff’s office turn away people that don’t need a gun. “Everybody does not need a gun.” “In my career I have had to attend several officer’s funerals. Don’t take this away from the Sheriffs.”
Sen. Allen said that this piece of legislation is for law abiding citizens of the state. I encourage the committee to approve this. People have a right to defend themselves.
Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) said, “I appreciate all the people coming forward.” “The second speaker (Eddie Fulmer) his comments were very threatening to me as an elected official. Mr. Fulmer bring it on. I have been in the Senate for 20 years. My constituents appreciate what I do. I stand for my constituents and I stand with law enforcement.” I appreciate what law enforcement officers do and think you, like teachers, are underpaid. I don’t take well to threats.
Senator Allen wrote in a statement, “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” Senate Bill 14 would give Alabamians the right to travel the roads with our loaded firearms if a need for lethal force should arise.
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.
Last year Allen’s permit-less vehicle carry bill, SB 14, 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.