The Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved Alabama Senate Bill 24, which would allow anyone to carry a concealed firearm without a permit within state lines. The bill is now moving its way toward the Senate floor to receive full consideration.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Lineville, the bill would protect the Second Amendment.
“It provides protection for the Second Amendment that was given to us by our founding fathers,” Allen said. “I’m a gun owner, and I have a permit that I purchased, but this law would make it an optional issue for those who don’t want to purchase a permit as long as they don’t plan on carrying a gun when traveling outside of the state of Alabama.”
Allen argues the passage of SB24 would make carrying a gun for protection easier for out of state travelers because they would not need an Alabama state permit to keep a firearm with them or in their vehicle. He also says the right to carry a firearm should be free.
“We shouldn’t have to pay fees for our constitutional rights,” Allen said. “As a gun owner, I want to protect myself, my family and my property. This law would help people to feel that the second amendment is a privilege given to them from the Constitution.”
The passage of SB24 would bring Alabama in line with 10 other states, including neighboring Mississippi, that already have laws allowing concealed carry without a permit for state residents and non-residents.
“A similar bill has passed in other states, and I think it has been very successful in allowing law abiding citizens who respect the rule of law the opportunity to exercise their rights,” Allen said.
Allen’s version of the bill goes further. It would repeal four other requirements for carrying a pistol, including a provision that prohibits holders from carrying a firearm at an organized protest. It also loosens requirements for carrying firearms near jails, prisons, courthouses and other government facilities.
Although the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 to approve the bill, it has received mixed reviews from the community. According to Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones, the Sheriffs Association voted almost unanimously opposing the legislation.
“We in law enforcement, and myself personally, are avid supporters of the Second Amendment,” Jones said. “Sometimes we get painted as being anti-Second Amendment because we’re opposed to the bill, but I would propose that it’s not that we’re anti-Second Amendment, we are pro public safety.”
Jones and other Alabama sheriffs agree that the passage of SB24 would increase the risk of gun violence in Alabama.
“It would increase the likelihood of individuals having firearms that shouldn’t have them in the first place,” Jones said. “If they’re going to break the law they’re going to break the law, and I understand that because they do that now, but if we have a law in the books that helps us to deal with that situation, we can when it presents itself.”
If the bill passed, Jones said, that would be one less section of the code that law enforcement officers could apply to those types of individuals who illegally carry firearms.
“With a law that requires a permit to carry a gun, we can find those who are not eligible to receive a permit but are still carrying a gun and make an arrest, remove them from the street and possibly recover stolen firearms and find out about other crimes they may have committed,” Jones said.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a non-partisan, grassroots organization that seeks common sense solutions to gun violence, is also in opposition to the bill. According to Anne Leader, the Alabama chapter leader, the group is choosing to stand with law enforcement.
“At the moment, if you want to carry a concealed weapon, you have to apply for a permit and have a background check run on you, which is a safeguard against getting guns into the hands of dangerous people,” Leader said. “Our sheriffs, who issue permits, have the ability to deny permits to anyone that they think might use the weapon unlawfully or to endanger the lives of themselves or someone else. That’s just another level of protection that would go away if Senate Bill 24 is passed.”
Leader spoke against SB24 at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s public hearing on March 1, and Moms Demand Action members in Auburn have been calling and writing letters to Alabama senators urging them to vote against the bill.
“Until it is voted on in the Senate, we will continue to encourage our senators to stand with the law enforcement and to vote against the bill, and if it does pass the Senate, then we will do the same thing with our House representatives,” Leader said. “Hopefully, if what we’re hearing so far is true, the bill does not have much support in the House because they are more in agreement with the sheriffs and law enforcement, but if it passes the House of Representatives, then we’ll turn to the governor and ask him to veto it.”
Nevertheless, Leader said there is a lot of common ground on the issue of gun regulation and gun safety.
“Eighty-eight percent of Americans and even 80 percent of gun owners don’t want to see permitless carry, which is what Senate Bill 24 would be,” Leader said. “I don’t think anyone actually debates wanting to prevent gun violence, but the gun lobby makes it about taking away everybody’s guns, which is totally not the case. I think it’s just a question of education and letting people know that we are all on the same page.”