By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, March 1, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6 to 3 to pass Senate Bill 24, which makes Alabama a Constitutional carry State. The move was opposed by the Alabama Sheriff’s Association and other law enforcement groups as well as by the Alabama County Commissions Association.
SB24 was sponsored by state Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa). Sen. Allen has been a staunch backer of Second Amendment rights for years. Sen. Allen said in a statement, “I pre-filed legislation in the Alabama State Senate to allow Alabamians to lawfully carry guns without a permit. This permitless carry proposal would remove a needless restriction on Alabamians’ Second Amendment rights and make it easier for citizens to protect and defend their families and property.”
Sen. Allen said, “Alabama should be leading the way on constitutional gun rights. More than ten states across the country already allow their citizens to carry guns without a permit. It’s time we give our citizens the right to bear arms without first seeking the government’s permission. We already allow open carry without a permit, and there is no logical reason for continuing to require a permit for concealed carry. Under this proposal, the requirement for a permit would be repealed, but Alabamians could still apply for a pistol permit in order to carry a gun in states that have reciprocity laws with Alabama. Currently, Alabama conceal-carry permit holders can carry guns in Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida, among other states, due to state reciprocity laws. A pistol permit holder would also retain the benefit of foregoing a background check when purchasing firearms. You will still need a permit if you’re going to legally carry a gun in other states, so I anticipate that a large majority of gun owners in Alabama will continue to purchase a permit from their local sheriff. My goal is to remove unnecessary burdens on law-abiding citizens who own and carry guns, since most criminals and thugs don’t bother applying for a permit anyways. Under this legislation, Alabama businesses would still have the right to post “gun-free zone” signs, and prohibitions would remain on concealed or open carry in most government buildings and at athletic events.”
The Alabama Senate Republican Caucus has endorsed SB24, including it in its “Strengthen Alabama” legislative agenda for the 2017 Regular Session. The caucus wrote: “Permitless Carry Ten states across the country allow their citizens to carry guns without a permit, and Senate Republicans believe Alabamians should have a similarly unimpeded right to protect their families and property. Therefore, a repeal of the requirement for a conceal carry permit shall be a priority in the 2017 session. Similarly, the Alabama House Republicans Caucus has also included this item on their “Alabama Proud” agenda.
Alabamians already have the right to carry their handguns openly, everywhere except in their vehicles, without a permit. Under present law handguns have to be unloaded, locked in a box, and away from reach, unless you buy a concealed carry permit, this does not apply to long guns, including AR-15s, which are legal to carry openly or in vehicles.
The Alabama House Republicans Caucus has already included this item on their “Alabama Proud” agenda. Since the Republicans have super majorities in both Houses and both GOP Caucuses this agenda item will be prioritized in both Houses and is virtually certain to pass into law.
Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning opposes the bill: “We hear it’s just a money thing,” Dorning said Wednesday. “No, it’s not. It’s a life and death safety issue for our men and women because the equipment we’re able to provide them with drastically makes them more efficient and more able to address the situations that they come into every day.”
Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale (R) supports the bill. Hale said that law enforcement has nothing to fear from lawful gun owners and that the criminals don’t get licenses anyway as their criminal histories prevent them from obtaining the permits.
Sheriff Hales said that, “Adequate funding is the responsibility of the county commission it is not up to pistol license owners to pay for training.” Hale argued that in states with Constitutional Carry pistol license s did increase.” Hale argued that gun owners would still want to carry their guns when traveling out of state and like the convenience of not having to wait two days from a background check when purchasing guns. Hale says that he sells the permits for just $7.50 in Jefferson County, and unlike other sheriffs does not benefit from the sales (the Jefferson County Legislative Office gets the money there).
Hale said that there has not been an increase in violence in Arizona, Kansas, or West Virginia when they passed Constitutional carry. Hale said of his fellow sheriffs: “They are the finest men and women I know and it is hard to be in disagreement with them.”
Sonny Braswell, who heads the Alabama County Commission Association, was upset that the bill undid some of the compromises from the 2013 Omnibus Gun bill, “We spent a great deal of time negotiating this in 2013.” “There has been a bill introduced in every session to chip away at the agreement made in 2013.”
Among these it would allow gun owners to have their guns in demonstrations and political events. Under current law, even if you have the permit, it is illegal to wear your gun in a demonstration either openly or concealed. This would strike that provision. SB24 would keep the provision barring guns from any court house; but would more narrowly define court house to be simply those buildings were courts are regularly held. Many counties had been calling almost any county building a, “courthouse annex” in order to prevent lawful gun owners from bringing their weapons there.
Braswell said that Mardi gras went well without allowing guns there.
Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) told Braswell, “That provision is not doing anything for us” and added that Mardi Gras is not a demonstration,” thus would not have been covered under the existing provision.
Senator Linda Coleman Madison (D-Birmingham) asked Allen amenable to changing that provision to ban guns from court house annexes.
Sen. Allen said that if court is held on a regular basis at a court house or town hall they are covered even if a annex.
Eddie Fulmer with the pro-Second Amendment group Bamacarry, said that his members support SB24 and said that the current law does not prevent crime as the criminals are carrying already. “No piece of paper will stop an individual from committing a crime or a criminal deed.” “13 states now have permit-less carry and officer fatalities have gone down.”
Fulmer said, “I appeal to the sense of freedom that is in each of us.” “If we have to get a permit to exercise a right then we are a subject not a citizen.” Fulmer predicted that passing SB24 would not impact officer safety and that permit sales will not go down the will go up.
The President of the Alabama Sheriff’s Association, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said, “This is bad legislation. This is ot about the 2nd Amendment.” Olson took a shot at Hale and said that Jefferson County has had 21 murders in two months in 2017 alone. Sheriff Olson warned that without the permit requirement if Law Enforcement encounters someone with a gun they won’t have any reason to make contact with that individual (to ask to see their permit).
Sen. Williams replied “You still have to have probable cause to stop someone. Alabama is an open carry state. You would have no reason to stop them,” under current law.
A representative from the National Rifleman’s Association (NRA) was also present to urge the committee to pass SB24.
SB24 passed 6 to 3 and now moves on for consideration by the full Senate.