When it comes to regulating firearms, Alabama really doesn’t have much common sense.
This week, there was a spark, albeit a small one, in the Senate Tourism Committee. The committee rejected a bill, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, that would have allowed residents to carry concealed weapons legally without a permit.
This was a bad idea from the outset, but the gun culture in Alabama loved it. No longer would the gun lovers have to pay their local sheriff for a carry permit. While the fee for the permit isn’t prohibitive, the supporters of so-called “constitutional carry” believe their right to carry and hide their weapons is covered under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Here’s the major flaw in their argument, though. The Second Amendment isn’t without limits already. Indeed, it starts with the phrase “A well-regulated militia.” Regulated. That comes from the word “reg-u-late,” which literally means “to control or direct by a rule, principle, method, etc. … to adjust to some standard or requirement, as amount, degree, etc.”
Clearly, guns have been regulated from just about the beginning. And in the beginning, we didn’t really have the kinds of weapons we see carried around in the streets today: these military-style weapons that can fire rapidly and whose bullets do create terrible devastation to just about anything they hit.
Mass shootings in churches, synagogues, mosques, schools, concerts, movie theaters, nightclubs, businesses and other venues don’t seem to faze the gun lovers. Firearms also make suicide much quicker – and easier — and suicide by gun occurs multiple times every day in this “land of the free.”
The National Rifle Association, an ethically questionable organization that wants to put as many firearms on the streets as possible and uses domestic and foreign donations to buy politicians to get it done, supported the no-permit bill.
But four Democrats and two Republicans in the Senate Tourism Committee decided that wasn’t where Alabama needed to go, and the bill failed to advance on a 6-5 vote.
People who support conceal-carry without a permit make some good points about the permits issued by sheriff’s departments in the state. Many, they say, do very shallow background checks (or none at all – “our computer is down”) before issuing the permits. Conceal- carry permits also are a money-maker for the sheriffs, and they are reluctant to give up any revenue stream.
If anything, why doesn’t the state require even more extensive background checks before somebody can not only purchase a firearm, but get a conceal-carry permit?
One wonders what we need to witness before people understand that more, not less, gun regulation is needed in this country. As a starter, military-style weapons should be banned. Only military and law enforcement agencies need carry those terrible killers. High capacity magazines and certain types of ammunition should be off limits for civilians.
Gun lovers should understand that few people – no, not even me – want to keep them from owning firearms for home defense or hunting or sport shooting. Still, reasonable regulation is called for at a much higher level than we have now.
We already limit the ages people can buy guns, especially certain types of firearms. We don’t let a 5-year-old open carry at the local Walmart. Anti-tank weapons and mortars would be great for home defense, but ordinary citizens aren’t allowed to own them.
I know, these are extreme, ridiculous examples, but they illustrate the point that limits already exist on the Second Amendment, so where should the reasonable lines be drawn? The Second Amendment refers to “arms,” not specifically to “guns.” Yet, some “arms” are clearly not legally allowed to be owned and brandished by the “well-regulated militia” referred to in the amendment.
So the debate goes on.
If you opposed Allen’s bill (SB4), don’t become complacent. And if you support it, don’t get all depressed and start playing Russian roulette.
The conceal-carry-with-no-permit bill could pop up again anytime. It is rare that any pro-gun bill gets the final coup de grâce in Alabama.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]