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ATF charges some Alabama sheriffs selling concealed carry permits without criminal background checks


Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent out letters to all Alabama Federal Firearms Licensees that they can no longer take Alabama Concealed Carry Permits in lieu of performing a background check.

Assistant Director of Enforcement Marvin Richardson wrote in the letter that some sheriffs in Alabama have been selling permits without performing the required National Instant Criminal Background Check System check that is required under the 1998 Brady Act.

Prior to this, an Alabama resident with a current concealed carry permit could go to the gun store and buy weapons without waiting around for the NICS check. The ATF has stopped that practice effective immediately.

“The permanent provisions of the Brady Act took effect on November 30, 1998,” Richardson wrote. “The Brady Act generally requires Federal firearms licensees (FFLs) to initiate a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check before transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person. However, the Brady Act contains exceptions to the NICS check requirement, including an exception for holders of certain state permits to possess, carry, or acquire firearms. The law and implementing regulations provide that permits issued within the past 5 years may qualify as alternatives to the NICS check if certain other requirements are satisfied. Most importantly, the authority issuing the permit must conduct a NICS background check and must deny a permit to anyone prohibited from possessing firearms under federal, state, or local law.”

“On February 24, 2016, ATF issued an Open Letter to All Alabama FFLs informing them that ATF had reviewed Ala. Code § 13A-11-75 and determined that Alabama’s CCP permits issued on or after August 1, 2013, qualified as an alternative to a NICS check,” Richardson continued. “ATF’s determination was based on the understanding that a full NICS check would be conducted by an authorized government official pursuant to Ala. Code § 13A-11-75(b) and, if the check revealed that the individual was prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal or state law, the applicant would be denied pursuant to Ala. Code § 13A-11-75(a)(1).1 ATF also based this determination inherent in this decision was the understanding that an Immigration Alien Query (IAQ) would be conducted if a non-U.S. citizen applied for a CCP permit, and that all CCP permit application forms, regardless of the county of issuance, required the applicant’s place/country of birth and an alien or admission number pursuant to Ala. Code §13A-11-75(e). Otherwise, the IAQ cannot be conducted. “

“Based on recent information received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division Audit Unit, and upon results of inspections conducted by ATF field offices, ATF has determined that, notwithstanding the express requirements of Ala. Code §13A-11-75, Alabama CCP permits have been, and continue to be, issued to individuals without completion of a NICS check, or after a NICS denial,” Richardson concluded. “At least some of these permits were issued.”

“Because county sheriffs have issued CCP permits s without completing a full NICS check, firearms have been transferred to felons and other prohibited individuals in violation of federal law, thereby creating a substantial public safety concern,” Richardson stated. “For this reason, the standards set forth in the Brady law require us to find that Alabama’s CCP permits no longer qualify as a NICS check alternative. In the interest of public safety, and effective immediately, FFLs in Alabama may no longer accept CCP permits as an alternative to a NICS check. “

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Currently, 26 states accept Alabama concealed carry permits as valid. It is not known yet if any of those states will begin refusing to honor Alabama concealed carry permits due to the revelations that Alabama sheriffs have not complied with the law requiring them to perform a background check.

It is also not known how many sheriffs were not honoring their obligations to perform the NICS checks or how many felons illegally obtained concealed carry permits and firearms because of this lapse in procedure.

Under Alabama law, for a citizen to carry a loaded handgun in their vehicle or concealed on their person they must have a concealed carry permit issued by their local sheriff. Nothing in today’s letter changes those state requirements.

The Alabama Political Reporter has reached out to the Alabama Sheriffs Association for comment.

To read the letter, click here.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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