The nation is reeling from the latest school shooting at Covenant Christian School in Nashville, inflaming the debate once again over what legislation might be needed to curb gun laws.
Meanwhile, it’s not even illegal currently to carry concealed guns on school grounds, as long as the person has a concealed carry permit.
Rep. Chris England has proposed a bill to strike that exception from the law.
“If someone carries a pistol or firearm on school grounds, it’s technically not illegal,” England said. “So if you approach someone with a firearm on school grounds, you can’t take the pistol, you can’t do anything to subdue them, what you have to do is trespass them and send them off. A lot of people believe that, mistakenly, that federal law controls guns on school grounds, but it doesn’t. We passed laws that preempt federal law on school grounds.”
England said the change is comparable to current Alabama law preventing guns from being taken into a courthouse.
“This never made sense to me that we identify a particular location where we don’t want you to be able to carry concealed at all, but where our kids are, it’s OK,” England said.
Under the current law, a person with a concealed carry permit could only be charged with carrying a pistol on school grounds if there is an intent to do bodily harm, which England said is hard to prove until harm has actually already been carried out.
The bill has been sent to the crime subcommittee for now after Republicans on the committee brought up concerns about how school grounds are defined and whether a parent who keeps a pistol concealed in their car at all times could be charged with a Class C Felony just for going through the school pick-up line.
England said the pistol would need to be unloaded and in the trunk of the car, and pointed out that situations often arise in school parking lots in addition to inside the buildings themselves.
“You got problems with principals, problems with teachers or whatever, where our kids are around,” England said. “Again, maybe it’s just me, but I would prefer that we just limit possession on campus to those individuals, law enforcement, and those who have been appointed by the local school board to have those weapons for protection purposes.
Rep. Russell Bedsole, R-Alabaster, brought up particulate complications of the bill and said it’s a difficult balance between safety and liberty.
“It’s a tough and complex topic to dig into as far as when we’re trying to balance out that element of safety for our children and the Second Amendment rights of our citizens,” Bedsole said.
In addition to the concerns about parents in pick-up lines, Bedsole brought up a more complex situation in which there is a roadway that cuts through school grounds that could mean a person legally carrying a concealed pistol would be committing a felony if they were to try to drive through that school area.
England said he is completely open to having a discussion on how to more clearly define the school grounds to ensure it doesn’t unintentionally punish citizens in special circumstances such as those.
Rep. Greg Faulkner, R-Homewood, said if alcohol is banned on school grounds, so should firearms, with the exceptions already provided for in the law that allow exemptions for school resource officers and law enforcement.
Vice Chair Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, told England he agreed with the intent of the law, and that the exception based on the intent of the individual with a gun is not good language, but suggested the bill be sent to subcommittee to ensure the language is ready.