There are currently 70 pre-filed bills awaiting the arrival of Alabama state legislators, who begin the 2022 Legislative Session next week. As usual, this session will take place in Montgomery, where in 2021 there were at least 75 homicides (almost all of which occurred by firearm) and more than 300 shootings.
And those numbers don’t do justice to the actual gun problem in Alabama’s capital city. Spend an evening in Montgomery sometime. Sit outside near the downtown area and just listen. Montgomery residents call this the “fireworks or gunfire” game.
It should be no surprise then that when the legislature convenes there will be eight bills awaiting action that deal with the registration and carrying of guns. More than 10 percent of the pre-filed bills.
If that sounds like the work of an in-touch, caring legislature, well, clearly you’re not from around here.
Because every single bill filed does the opposite of what you’d expect – they all make it easier to own, carry and conceal a firearm.
Apparently, people aren’t dying fast enough.
Apparently, our police officers and sheriffs and deputies don’t face enough danger every day.
Because really, what’s the cost of a life when compared to a few extra votes?
In case you’re unaware, according to CDC statistics, Alabama has a higher gun death rate than 43 states. That includes a higher gun death rate than Illinois, where you’d find Chicago – the conservative go-to argument in every gun regulation debate.
Just FYI: Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham all had higher gun homicide rates than Chicago. Birmingham ranked third nationally in 2020, ahead of Detroit and New Orleans.
Most of the bills that have been pre-filed deal with concealed carry, which includes carrying a weapon in your car or truck. Currently, you are required to obtain a permit from your sheriff to be able to carry a concealed weapon.
Law enforcement officers believe the permit process is an important step for a couple of reasons. First, it allows a sheriff to make some judgment on the competency of the person requesting to carry. Second, it provides law enforcement with a means to take guns away from “bad guys.”
The Montgomery Police Department confiscated more than 1,600 firearms in 2021. Wrap your head around that. That’s more than four guns per day, every day for a year.
And still, more than 300 people were shot.
That’s why cops and district attorneys and sheriffs and deputies and pretty much anyone associated with public safety in this state is opposing these “permit-less carry” bills. Because they don’t aid public safety. They do the opposite.
But it’s an election year, and nothing drives conservative voters to the polls like a controversy over carrying a gun so they can pretend to be an action hero. So now the same guys who slap a thin-blue-line flag sticker on their back windshield and can’t be chased out of a police union barbecue with a firehose are lining up to sponsor bills that law enforcement officers genuinely believe makes them less safe.
Of course, why would we expect anything different from a group of people who are openly supportive of the insurrectionists who a year ago beat police officers at the U.S. Capitol?
It seems that Republicans’ support of law enforcement ends where their political well-being begins.
And history bears this out.
We’re not in a position of rising gun crime because of Democratic policies or a liberal agenda. Cops aren’t facing more dangerous situations because libs wanted more accountability and body cams.
We’re in this predicament – one in which you can literally sit on a porch in Montgomery and hear semi-automatic gunfire for hours on end every night – because Republicans for years allowed NRA lawyers and lobbyists to write legislation. They pushed it and pushed it and pushed it, allowing good regulations to die and opening the floodgates for weapons.
And that’s exactly what happened. Our streets have been flooded with cheap, easily accessible firearms, including a seemingly endless number of assault weapons, and they have become the tool of choice for anyone in an argument.
People are dying by the truckload because of it.
And now they want to make it worse.