The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would repeal the state’s law requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration of final passage.
Repealing the need for those permits, which require background checks, would put law enforcement officers’ lives at greater risk, most of law enforcement’s opponents of the bill said. Supporters of the legislation said Alabama lags behind the 21 other states with such laws and alleged that passages of them didn’t result in increased crime.
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.
Gene Piatkowski, a member of Bama Carry, a group that supports the bill, said pistol permits generate $20 for state sheriffs, but that the revenues don’t go to state or local police.
Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, said the association and state law enforcement agencies are against the bill, which he said comes down to safety of officers and the public.
“Sheriffs and law enforcement is perhaps the most important function of county government in Alabama,” Brasfield said. “And their opinions with regard to the impact that this bill might have on public safety and on the safety of citizens, we encourage you to give great weight to that.”
Interim Montgomery Police Chief Ramona Harris said access to firearms is a public safety concern when they fall into the hands of offenders. Pistol carry permits allow police to intervene in instances when guns may have been stolen and are being carried by criminals, she explained.
“There were possibly 200 reported stolen firearms last year and in 2021 the Montgomery Police Department secured approximately 160 warrants for violation of license to carry a concealed pistol,” Harris said.
“You have the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and I believe in that. I have a weapon myself,” Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, said to Stringer. “But I just fail to understand, why do you always want to take it another step forward when we’ve heard law enforcement say they are dealing with this on the streets every day?”
Stringer said he simply believes people who can legally carry a pistol shouldn’t have to ask sheriffs for permission to do so.
Stutts offered an amendment that he said would restore private property rights and allow property owners to tell those carrying weapons that they aren’t allowed on their property. The amendment passed.
Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, offered an amendment that would offer grants to sheriffs to replace the funds lost by doing away with pistol permits.
“Why should the citizens of all the cities in the state of Alabama be responsible for that, when the sheriffs already have a mechanism to be able to do that just by collecting their permits money,” said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D- Greensboro, before the amendment was approved in a 11-1 vote.
Members then voted to give the bill a favorable report in a 6-4 vote, with Albritton abstaining.
The Alabama House last month passed HB272 in a 67-33 vote, sending it to the Senate for consideration. Both the House and Senate have to approve a bill before it can be sent to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.