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House Democrats scold Republicans for blocked revision to permitless carry bill

Rep. Chris England introduced legislation to add a penalty to the law’s “duty to inform” provision, but the bill was killed in committee.

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A bill passed without opposition in the Alabama House of Representatives Tuesday to replace revenue lost by Alabama sheriffs due to last year’s passage of a bill allowing for permitless carry of concealed weapons.

While the intent of the bill wasn’t opposed by any members of the body, it brought up a host of concerns about the original controversial bill.

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, co-sponsored the bill, but spent 20 minutes on the floor criticizing the House for not allowing his bill out of committee to fix what England sees as another problem with the permitless carry bill.

“This amends the Constitutional Carry Act,” England affirmed with sponsor Russell Bedsole, R-Alabaster. “Ain’t that something? It not only amends it, but it acknowledges there were some mistakes made in passing it.”

When the Legislature passed the permitless carry bill in the last session, it created the “Local Government Pistol Permit Revenue Loss Fund,” and designated $5 million to go to the fund each year for three years. Bedsole’s bill adjusts that to $7.5 million per year to the fund for five years.

The original amount was based on 2022 pistol permit sales, but Democrats have argued that was a mistake as news of the permitless carry bill curbed sales. The new figure is based on 2021 sales, Bedsole said.

England said his bill attempted to fix another problem with the bill; namely that the law includes a provision creating a duty to inform law enforcement that a person is indeed carrying a concealed weapon upon the questioning of the officer. The provision currently carries no criminal penalty, making the provision effectively unenforceable.

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England said that provision was part of good-faith negotiation between the bill’s sponsors and law enforcement advocates.

“For whatever reason, the duty to informed was passed without a penalty,” England said. “The Alabama Supreme Court has found that if you have a criminal law that doesn’t have a penalty, it can’t be enforced. 

You have a bill to fix (the revenue loss) problem, and here we are. I bring a bill of the same sort … and it gets killed in committee, it doesn’t even get a discussion. It begs the question, are we really trying to protect law enforcement when we put them at greater risk? We paid them lip service for political expediency purposes. If we know now that it is not enforceable, why won’t we fix it? Why isn’t there a bill coming forward if we love law enforcement so much? This bill should be 105-0 on its way to the Senate, but for some reason I can’t get it out of committee.”

Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, signaled his support of the bill replacing the lost revenue from pistol permits, but told members of the House that “it does not make our sheriffs or men in blue any safer.”

“We want to glorify guns and let our pastime be mass shootings,” Jackson said. “This is insanity. Where everybody can wear a gun or have one concealed and law enforcement can’t question that at a traffic stop; oh, but we’re going to give them a few more dollars to make them feel good.”

There was also criticism of a provision in the bill to rename the grant program to the “Sheriffs’ Advancement in Education, Technology, and Training Fund.”

“Who’s being educated,” Jackson asked. “A parent when their husband is shot down? Children when their parents have been killed?”

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England also alluded to issues with another provision in the permitless carry bill, telling House members the prohibited persons database is flawed and doesn’t work like pistol permits in keeping law enforcement safe.

“It makes me sick. Many people around the state depended on us when negotiating in good faith that we are going to do what we say we are going to do,” England said. “But we don’t. It’s what we do in Montgomery. 

“It is so disingenuous that we give the money back that we took because we took permits away. Now we want the sheriffs to come back and say ‘thank you.’ It doesn’t even make sense. We’re going to make sure you have a little extra money, but we’re damn sure not going to do anything about helping you out on the streets.”

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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