The Alabama House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday gave a favorable report for a bill that would repeal the state’s law requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
House Bill 272, sponsored by state Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Citronelle, would do away with the legal requirement for a person to have a concealed carry permit in Alabama, which is referred to as permitless carry or constitutional carry.
Several law enforcement officials have aligned against the bill, which they say would put officers’ lives at risk. Supporters of the legislation said Alabama lags behind the 22 other states with such laws and said that passages of them didn’t result in increased crime. Among those opposed to the bill is the Alabama Sheriffs Association, which believes that doing away with permits would make it easier to get guns without registering them.
“This bill does not do away with permits, permits will still be available for reciprocity and for schools. Our school zones. Federal law requires that you have a pistol permit,” Stringer said, adding that permits would be required to carry a concealed handgun at school sporting events.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 30 years. For anybody to say that I’m against law enforcement is false. I’m extremely pro-law enforcement,” Stringer said.
Two amendments to the bill were introduced. Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, questioned Stringer on language in one amendment that would make it a Class B misdemeanor to carry a pistol or any other weapon on a person or in their vehicle.
Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville, said the amendment added back into the bill a “catch-all” to address federal laws against carrying pistols without a permit onto school property.
“Representative Reynolds amendment is an acknowledgment to a certain degree that everybody in this room understands that this inherently creates some danger,” England said of the bill.
Another amendment would require a person in a vehicle to inform law enforcement that they have a weapon in the car. The amendment passed, but Stringer voted against it. The other amendments were also approved.
“It’s just amazing that there was a very pro-law enforcement amendment offered to this bill, and the same people that are talking about how they’re concerned about law enforcement safety tried to keep it off,” England said.
England made a motion to carry the bill over and the committee voted that motion down.
Rep. Allan Farley, R-McCalla, said permit fees are used by sheriffs offices to help pay for school resource officers, police cars, bulletproof vests, body cameras, radios, computers for cars, automatic defibrillators, guns, tactical training, extradition of felons from other states, digital evidence, investigative tools, the DARE program in schools and for the Children’s Advocacy programs.
“So let’s be serious. What we’re doing here is defunding the police,” Farley said
The bill now heads to the full House for a vote.
“The Alabama House Public Safety Committee just chose gun extremists over public safety,” Harriette Huggins, a volunteer with the Alabama chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement after the vote. “They’ve disregarded the expertise of law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day, and they’ve jeopardized the wellbeing of our families and communities. If their job is to keep us safe, they’re failing miserably.”
The Alabama Chapter of Moms Demand Action noted in a press release that states that have weakened their firearm permitting systems have experienced a 13 percent to 15 percent increase in violent crime rates and an 11 percent increase in handgun homicide rates.