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Senate Committee rejects permit-less carry

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, the Alabama Senate Tourism Committee voted to reject Senate Bill 4, which would have ended the requirement that citizens obtain a concealed carry permit from their sheriff’s office in order to carry their guns concealed.

SB 4 was sponsored by Senator Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa.

The legislation was supported by pro-Second Amendment groups including the National Rifle Association and BamaCarry.

Proponents argue that the Constitution is the only permit that an American citizen should need to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

The Alabama Sheriff’s Association strongly opposed the bill. They argued that it would cost sheriff’s departments much-needed revenue and would make law enforcement officers less safe.

The sheriffs say that a permit is a tool that law enforcement uses to keep weapons from being carried by persons who should not have them. It is already against federal law for convicted felons to possess firearms at all.

Mississippi has constitutional carry; while Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida all allow gun owners to carry their weapons with them in the cars.

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Alabama is an open carry state. It is perfectly legal for any Alabama resident, who has not lost their gun rights for some reason, to openly carry their firearms with them on their person in public, like in a restaurant, shopping for groceries, at church, or walking the streets. Now it gets tricky when they get in a motor vehicle because under Alabama law a gun in a car is considered concealed. Before getting in a motor vehicle the gun owner must unload the gun and place it in a locked box out of reach or the driver. Constantly loading and unloading the gun in public is a bit awkward so most law-abiding gun owners in Alabama purchase the concealed carry permit from their sheriff even if they open carry.

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Sheriffs argue that they would lose revenue. The NRA argues that in states that pass constitutional carry permit sales actually go up because more people carry and they like the reciprocity that allows them to carry their guns with them when they go to other states and can purchase firearms without having to wait on the Washington computers which can delay a gun purchase.

The Alabama chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety strongly lobbied the legislature to reject SB4, which they called, a dangerous bill that would have allowed people to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without getting a permit or passing a background check. The red-shirted Moms Demand Action volunteers have flooded the Statehouse campaigning for tougher gun laws.

“We’re thrilled that our elected officials chose to listen to their constituents who urged them to reject this dangerous bill,” said Dana Ellis, a volunteer with the Alabama chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Today’s vote was a major step toward gun sense in Alabama, and we applaud the members of the Senate who voted to protect the safety of our communities.”

Everytown for Gun Safety released a poll Friday showing that 71 percent of Alabamians support the existing permit system and oppose removing the requirement for a permit. They claim that the bill would have allowed people whom law enforcement has determined pose a public safety risk to carry concealed guns. 62 percent of respondents said that they would be less likely to vote to re-elect Governor Kay Ivey if she signed the legislation.

Proponents of the bill argue that concealed carry permits do not permit dangerous criminals from carrying guns. If someone will break the laws against armed robbery or attempted murder they are not thwarted by the law requiring a concealed carry permit.

The bill had been before the Judiciary Committee, but Senator Allen felt they were moving too slow so asked that it be taken up by the Tourism Committee.

All four Democrats on the committee voted against giving SB4 a favorable report. Freshmen Republicans Randy Price and David Sessions voted with the Democrats to deny SB4 on a 6 to 5 vote. Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, supported the bill.

In past sessions, the Senate would pass the bill and it would get buried in a subcommittee by the House of Representatives. Tuesday’s vote sends the message that the new Republican super majority is not as pro-Second Amendment as the previous Republican super majority was. Tuesday’s vote means that the bill is effectively dead for this session.

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