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Separating fact from fiction about “Gun Bill”

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama Senate passed Senate Bill 24, which would allow Alabamians, who are lawfully permitted to own a firearm, to carry them concealed on their person without having to purchase a concealed carry permit (sometimes popularly called a “pistol permit”) from their Sheriff’s Office. However, the Alabama Sheriff’s Association is fighting hard against this bill claiming it will jeopardize the public’s safety.

Anyone who has attended public hearings or has heard arguments from lobbyists knows that separating fact from fiction can be a challenging task that requires doing research on the legislation.

Most people born in the South cling to God, guns, and State’s rights to paraphrase former President Barack Obama.

In Alabama, 2nd Amendment Advocates, Constitutionalists, the NRA, Bama Carry, Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale, and others support SB24. On the other side sit the Alabama Sheriffs Association, the SPLC, ACLU and those who would strip Alabamians of all their guns. Surprisingly, this strange coalition has joined forces to kill what has come to be known as “The Gun bill.”

Sheriffs, as well as all Law Enforcement officers, should be respected, and when their association lobbies the Legislature, it should do so with the same honesty and integrity that is the underpinning of an officer’s oath of office.

As Sergeant Joe Friday said on the TV series Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

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SB24 will be in House Committee on Wednesday. So, for those who don’t have time to scourer the bill, here are the facts:

The “Gun Bill” is not groundbreaking Legislation. States as diverse as Vermont and Wyoming have passed similar bills. Other states that have comparable statutes include:

New Hampshire
North Dakota
West Virginia

The foundational argument being made by the Sheriffs’ Association is that passage of SB24 would pose a grave threat to officer safety. Yet, states that have passed similar Legislation have not seen an uptick in violence against police officers. Statistics from Officer Down Memorial which tracks data concerning officer-involved homicides found that Arizona, Alaska, and Wyoming, states that have enacted laws similar to SB24, have not seen an increase in gun violence against Law Enforcement.

Officer Down Memorial. Org PDF

But, there are many more so-called “facts” being cited by the Sheriffs Association and its allies opposing the Legislation that have little or nothing to do with the actual bill at all.

Sen. Gerald Allen who sponsored the bill in the Senate has tried to separate the truth from fiction surrounding other parts of the Legislation: “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.”

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The Sheriff’s Association has alleged that SB24 eliminates the ability for Sheriffs to issue permits. But Allen’s statement and the bill itself makes clear that Sheriffs will still need to sell conceal carry pistol permit to carry a firearm across state lines.

SB24 does not, in any way, eliminate the ability for Sheriffs to issue permits. In fact, states with similar laws have seen an increase in permit sales, not a decrease.

Crime Prevention Research Center PDF

Arizona which passed similar legislation in 2010 has seen an upswing in permit sales, not a decrease, as predicted by the Alabama Sheriff’s Associations. Not only has Arizona enjoyed an increase in permit sales, so has Kansas, Alaska, and Wyoming. So, the facts contradict the assertion that permit sales are in jeopardy.

Another fact versus fiction item is the notion that SB24 eliminates background checks on people who purchase firearms. Under Alabama law, anyone who buys a handgun has to complete a thorough background check. SB24 does not change that provision of the law. Even after the passage of SB24, every person who walks into a gun shop to make a legal purchase will have to pass the same background check that they do now.

“Currently, Alabama conceal-carry permit holders can carry guns in Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida, among other states, due to State reciprocity laws,” said Senate sponsor Allen. “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.”

In fact data from other states with similar laws shows that those states have not experienced a decrease in permit purchases. Many states have seen their permit sales increase. Therefore, funding for local Sheriffs’ operations is not negatively impacted by SB24.

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The Sheriffs Association has also intimated that SB24 eliminates an important tool for the apprehension of criminals. However, most criminals do not seek concealed carry permits. Only a fool would apply for a pistol permit from their local Sheriff before going on a crime spree. But why let a good argument stand in the way of facts.

Here again, Allen addresses the issues saying, “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.”

Integrity, honesty, and candor are important traits for the women and men in Law Enforcement who serve and protect the citizens of our State. The same goes for their lobbyists.

The arguments against passing SB24 are not grounded in facts as proven by historical data and research. The people of Alabama and their elected officials deserve facts, not fiction. Legislators need to be able to trust that those representing men and women in uniform are being fully truthful. They deserve data-driven answers and not hype. Empirical evidence leads to better policy and in a matter as important to the people’s right to bear arms, there should be no question about the facts. Let’s hope that those representing the opposition to this bill remember that the men and women in uniform that they represent need to them to stick to the facts and nothing but the facts.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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