By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Saturday, the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action hosted a legislative town hall meeting at Hoover Tactical Firearms in Hoover. Over 120 Second Amendment rights activists were on hand in Alabama to kick off a push for state legislation that would allow law-abiding Alabamians to carry a firearm without a government permit. Their first town hall was in Huntsville last week.
Constitutional or permit-less carry is already the law in 12 states: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming, New Hampshire and North Dakota. Montana allows permit-less carry for all areas outside city limits – 99.4 percent of the state.
NRA State Legislative Liaison Art Thomm told the crowd on constitutional carry, “Alabama is a gun state. You have told us that you want this. I am here to get if for you.”
A constitutional carry bill was introduced in the 2017 Alabama Regular Legislative Session by state Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa. It passed the Alabama Senate, but opponents in the Alabama House assigned it to a sub-committee where it was never acted upon. Alabama is an open carry state where every adult citizen, who has not lost their gun rights, can carry their weapons on their person openly without paying for a “pistol permit’ or concealed carry permit. If you want to carry your handgun concealed, however, you must go to your sheriff’s office and apply for a permit. The Alabama Sheriff’s Association opposes constitutional carry.
Thomm said that the Alabama permit is not a pistol permit. You can already carry your weapon on you openly; but if you want to put a jacket on, they say that you are carrying concealed, and you need to have a permit. It is really a jacket permit. You are allowed to wear your gun on you openly and walk around, but the minute you get in your vehicle, suddenly they say that you are concealed and need to have a permit. Thomm said that crime went up in none of the other states that passed constitutional carry. There was no wild west with shootouts everywhere, as some of the opponents had predicted. Permit sales did not go down – in fact, they went up as more people began carrying firearms and purchasing the permits so that they can travel with their weapons out of state and can purchase guns without having to go through the delay of the federal database.
Thomm said that last year the Senate passed this, but the House sent this to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee chaired by state Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, who then sent it to a subcommittee and refused to bring it out for the House to vote on it. “There was no vote on this in the House so members can tell you I was for the bill and the run for re-election and get an A rating from the NRA. I am here to make sure that does not happen again.” Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, can make sure that this gets out of committee this year. “If this gets to the floor (of the House) I guarantee you that it will pass and it will be signed.”
Some of the audience complained about the cost of the permits, which vary from county to county. Thomm says that he and the NRA support legislation that would allow gun owners to buy their permits in any of Alabama’s 67 counties, but the sheriffs are opposing that bill, too. Thomm said that there are 76,000 NRA members in Alabama and tens of thousands more who agree with us and support us. The legislators work for you, and so do the sheriffs. Thomm said that the NRA was not for banning bump stocks.
A wildly enthusiastic crowd largely supported Art Thomm’s sentiments.
State Rep. Alan Farley, R-McCalla, said that he hears one thing when he talks to groups like this, and another when he talks the sheriffs, the police chiefs and school groups. Farley said that he wanted the NRA to sit down with the sheriffs, the police chiefs and the school groups, and then create a compromise bill that everyone can agree on. Then that bill would be put on the ballot as a constitutional amendment, so everybody could vote on it.
Thomm and the crowd did not like Farley’s suggestion and urged the Legislature to pass the bill as it has been introduced in the upcoming Session, SB3.
Farley said that they should have invited the Speaker and more members of the Legislature to this meeting. Thomm said they were invited, but that Farley was the only one who came. Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, was at the Huntsville event the night before.
Thomm said that Rep. Farley’s task force to study the state’s gun laws would meet for a public hearing in Montgomery on November 30. Thomm urged everyone in the state who supports gun rights to attend even if they have to take a day off from work to do so and to call their legislators to tell them to pass constitutional carry in Alabama, State Bill 3 as introduced by Sen. Gerald Allen.