A pre-filed bill for the 2022 Legislative Session could make Alabama the 22nd state in the nation to adopt permitless carry, coined “constitutional carry” by its proponents.
Currently, the state requires a pistol permit for citizens to carry a pistol on their person or in their vehicle.
Proponents of permitless carry say the permit requirement infringes on Second Amendment rights, while opponents say it will allow criminals to operate more freely.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Citronelle, who was fired by Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran in May for sponsoring the permitless carry bill in the previous session.
“The U.S. Constitution does not say you have a right to keep and bear arms as long as you pay what amounts to a gun tax in the form of permit fees,” Stringer told APR in May. “It says you have the right to keep and carry firearms. . .period.”
The issue boiled up again on Dec. 14 when Cochran asked the Mobile County Commission to adopt a resolution formally opposing the legislation.
“This is a bill that has been floated for 10 to 12 years,” said Mobile County commissioner Randall Dueitt, who spent 25 years as a police officer.
Dueitt is one of the bill’s many critics, citing concerns over public safety and officer safety.
“I’m not so much against a guy walking down the street with a pistol concealed,” Dueitt said. “But right now if an officer pulls over a vehicle and sees a weapon, he has the right to ask to see a permit … People say that ‘the bad guys’ aren’t going to get a pistol permit and that’s true—most of the time they aren’t going to get a permit. Right now this is a tool to possibly get a stolen gun off the streets or prevent other crimes.”
Dueitt recounted one case very close to him in which pistol permits led to an arrest.
“A good friend of mine was murdered in a home invasion robbery,” Dueitt said. “It was a crime committed by a stranger. He murdered my friend with his own gun, then took the gun. For three weeks there were no suspects. A police officer made a traffic stop one night and asked the driver for a pistol permit.He didn’t have one. When he ran the serial number on the gun, it was my buddy’s stolen gun used in his murder. That’s one example of a murder suspect taken off the streets because he didn’t have a pistol permit. That’s just one example of hundreds.”
Some representatives who have carried the bill in previous sessions have said that sheriffs just don’t want to lose the revenues that pistol permits create.
“The Association of County Commissions of Alabama gets no money from those revenues and they’re opposed to this bill,” Dueitt said. “The Alabama District Attorneys Association don’t get any money and they oppose the bill. The Police Chiefs Association is opposed to the bill. Of course sheriffs oppose the bill. All of those organizations are in some form or fashion responsible for the safety of the public in Alabama. If they’re not benefitting from it, it’s not an argument to me. It’s just an argument proponents have come up with to make sheriffs in our state look bad … It’s a tragedy that sheriffs are being blasted all over the state as if they don’t support the second amendment.”
The Legislature has previously approved pistol permits to now go up to five years, and in the last session cleared the way for a lifetime pistol permit, although that may not be available until 2023.
The Legislature reconvenes to begin the 2022 regular session on Jan. 11.