Alabama Republicans don’t seem to care much about the safety of law enforcement officers in the state.
At least, it sure seemed that way on Wednesday, as sheriff after sheriff took time out of their days to explain to lawmakers how a bill that removes the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed firearm makes their jobs more dangerous and makes all of Alabama less safe.
The bill is sponsored, again, by Republican Gerald Allen.
It is opposed, again, by Democrats and law enforcement officers.
It is backed by the deep pockets of the NRA and other guns rights groups.
And so, tough luck, cops. We all know who wins in this state when it’s a race between human life and campaign donations.
This same bill has come up twice now, sponsored by Allen both times. It was passed by the Republican-dominated Alabama Senate last year. It will most likely be passed by the Republican-dominated Alabama Senate this year. It has a decent chance of passing the Republican-dominated House this year.
It’s a disgrace.
Sheriffs explained in detail on Wednesday how removing the requirement for a permit would make us less safe and would make their jobs harder and more dangerous. Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham provided the Senate’s Judiciary Committee with a detailed explanation of exactly how law enforcement officers use the permits to prevent dangerous people from carrying legally and to remove weapons from the streets.
Other sheriffs and law enforcement officers spoke privately with lawmakers, urging them again to vote against the bill.
Only the Democrats on the committee seemed to listen.
Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, got into a heated exchange with the spokesman for a gun group in Alabama, and had pointed words for the lawmakers considering the bill, including questioning if they were mentally ill.
Within minutes, of course, Figures’ words were taken out of context, as rightwing blogs and the ALGOP chairwoman, Terry Lathan, attempted unsuccessfully to paint Figures’ attempts to inject common sense into the debate as “anti-second amendment.”
In the real world, however, after listening to sheriffs explain that a permit requirement serves as one more check to ensure mentally ill individuals aren’t carrying firearms, Figures asked how anyone could vote to remove that permit requirement, unless they were mentally ill too.
Which, I have to tell you, seems like a reasonable question to ask.
For years now, after every mass shooting, Republicans and gun nuts have proclaimed loudly that the “real problem” isn’t the abundance of guns or our cavalier attitude towards firearms, but a mental health issue. Too many people with a history of mental illness are obtaining and carrying firearms, they say, and that’s what we should really do something about.
And yet, when a bunch of sheriffs are standing in front of those same Republicans, telling them that a permit requirement is one way we’re doing at least a little something, those Republicans are, essentially, yawning.
Because it’s all bull.
They don’t believe that mental health issues are the real problem. If they did, they’d fund mental health services. And they don’t care that sheriffs are literally standing before them saying, If you do this, my deputies could die.
They care about money and votes.
The NRA has the money. Gun groups have the Republican voters.
And they also know that law enforcement officers are voting Republican most of the time, for some reason that still baffles me. And the ALGOP isn’t worried about losing those votes.
But maybe they should be. Because maybe all of the pro-cop rhetoric doesn’t mean as much as turning your back on cop safety.
And that’s exactly what Alabama Republicans are doing with this bill.