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A Tuscaloosa bar argument ended with a young mother dead. Alabama’s gun laws didn’t help

Alabama’s meager laws encourage gun possession among young people and played a role in a college bar argument turning deadly.

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Brandon Miller did something stupid. 

Surely we can all agree that a guy, Miller, the Alabama basketball star, who is a dead lock for a top-5 NBA lottery pick, taking a gun to a teammate involved in a ridiculous “your girl was looking at me” altercation is insanely dumb, right? That being present at a scene where gunplay is involved – to the point that the car you’re driving gets hit twice by gunshots – is not the smartest move for a soon-to-be millionaire, correct? 

These are the circumstances in which Miller placed himself a few weeks ago. Now, a young mother, 23-year-old Jamea Harris, is dead – shot by the gun that was allegedly present in Miller’s car. The same gun his teammate, Darius Miles, who is charged in Harris’ murder, asked Miller to bring to him. 

According to police testimony at a pretrial hearing, Miles retrieved the gun from Miller’s car, there was a brief exchange between Miller and Miles about the gun, and then Miles gave the gun to his friend, Michael Lynn Davis, who apparently started shooting and was eventually shot himself by Harris’ boyfriend. 

All of it over a silly, Saturday night college bar argument. 

Since the murder, there have been many columns written about the insanity of Alabama head coach Nate Oats dismissing Miller’s involvement in the murder as “wrong spot, wrong time,” and in the history of truly embarrassing things said by coaches, that one definitely ranks very highly. There has also been outrage over Miller not missing a second of playing time. 

I get all of that. And there’s certainly a case to be made that Oats has chosen winning basketball games over the longterm well-being of his players, the Alabama basketball program and the image of the university. 

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But what I’d like to focus on is what, exactly, Brandon Miller did wrong in 2023 Alabama. 

Because correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t this the gun-toting, gun-lovin’, guns-will-solve-your-insecurities world you wanted? 

A world where everyone has a gun in the car. A world where every altercation, no matter how dumb they might be, involves gun play. A world where gun ownership and gun possession is as common as wearing shoes.

Because I seem to remember a whole bunch of people ignoring law enforcement officers’ cries of warning about rolling back the concealed carry license requirement, allowing for everyone to ride around with loaded firearms in their cars. 

That new law went into effect in Alabama in January. Harris was killed Jan. 15.

Now, I’m not saying that the elimination of the concealed carry permit is directly tied to the murder of Harris. I’m simply saying that it’s part of a cumulative series of decisions and laws that have created this gun-obsessed environment in which we live. 

And that environment has consequences. 

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Because let’s say, for example, that Alabama law required a concealed carry permit to have a pistol in a moving vehicle. And let’s say that Alabama law restricted handgun ownership to those over 21. One was a law here for decades, and the other was part of a very popular package of proposed new gun laws which went nowhere in Congress. 

Would Harris be alive today if those laws were in place? Would a bar fight have ended with punches instead of gunshots had we, as a state, passed laws that impressed upon young people that gun ownership and possession were serious, potentially dangerous matters? 


But that’s not the world we live in, is it? That’s not the world we’ve created with all of the hero-saves-the-innocent scenarios used to roll back gun laws and fight all efforts at any common sense regulations. 

The fact is Alabama is one of the gun-craziest states in the country. And it has the top-five gun death rate to match. 

We’ve told people, through our laws, that gun ownership is good. That guns protect you. That owning a gun is a responsible means of protecting yourself and your loved ones. We’ve glorified gun ownership. We’ve conflated gun ownership with masculinity. We made it insanely easy for anyone to own and carry a loaded firearm, and told them that they didn’t need training or instruction of any kind. Told them that just carrying the gun was enough to make them safe, and maybe even a hero. 

And then we have the gall to act surprised when a bunch of kids take all of that seriously. 

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So, I take it back. Maybe Brandon Miller didn’t act stupidly. Maybe his actions that night were just a reflection of the way things are in 2023. 

Where I see the dangers of a bunch of college kids riding around with a loaded firearm, Alabama lawmakers have told them that such behavior is legal and safe. Where I see the insanity of taking a gun to a friend who is involved in a simple altercation, Alabama lawmakers have said that’s a reasonable act that’s as legal as breathing. Where I see the dangers of gun possession at an everyday fight, our lawmakers have made it clear that’s a lawful means of protection. 

The stupidity was in ever believing a different outcome was possible.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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