What is hoped to be the "final" version of the Constitutional carry bill has been presented in the Alabama Legislature.
Several bills have addressed the prospect of Constitutional carry, also called permitless carry.
HB272, sponsored by Rep. Shane Stringer (R-Mobile), was introduced on Thursday, Feb. 3. The bill brings with it 37 co-sponsors, including Sorrell, and the Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon.
Rep. Andrew Sorrell (R–Muscle Shoals) initially pushed multiple Constitutional carry bills: HB123 and HB44.
Likewise, Stringer introduced several bills dealing with Constitutional carry: HB6, HB66, HB337, and HB618.
Conflict permeated the legislature surrounding Constitutional carry bills, causing protests from gun control advocates, such as Mom’s Demand Action (MDA) and the Alabama Sheriff’s Association (ASA).
Lawmakers worked behind the scenes to address concerns of various entities to unify around a single bill.
According to Sorrell, who worked extensively on HB272, this is not guaranteed to be the final version of the bill, but it does seem to address most concerns.
Sorrell said the bill soothes the concerns of Alabama businesses and schools by leaving certain laws in place while eliminating most of the restrictions on carrying guns and knives.
“Current Alabama law requires a permit to carry concealed,” Sorrell said. “We are striking that everywhere there is a requirement, with the exception of high school athletic events.”
One addition to the bill would make it lawful for a business owner to prohibit concealed weapons in their business. The bill will make someone subject to trespassing laws if they refuse to abide by the business’s rules and refuse to leave.
“There were some changes that the BCA (Business Council of Alabama), Manufacture Alabama, just business interests, in general, wanted to see," said Sorrell. "They wanted to make sure that if a business owner said, ‘hey, I don’t want guns in my business,’ he could prevent you from coming in his business with a firearm — same thing for employees. If a business owner says that you can’t carry a weapon to work, they should have to respect that. We wanted to make sure that the employee could carry a weapon in their car because they’ve got to be able to defend themselves to and from work. We thought that was a reasonable compromise because it protects private property rights, but it also allows people to protect themselves to and from work.”
Another significant change in this bill is removing any language that addresses carrying a weapon at high school athletic functions. Currently, under Alabama law, you are required to have a concealed carry permit to carry a gun at a high school athletic event. HB272 does nothing to address the current law and leaves it in place.
“We don’t want to get into making this a campus-carry fight," Sorrell said. "That’s a separate issue from Constitutional carry.”
A unique aspect of HB272 is its repeal of the current laws restricting the carrying of knives. Currently in Alabama, it is illegal to carry concealed on your person “a Bowie Knife or instrument of like-kind or description.” Many have stated that the term “like-kind or description” is too ambiguous, and the law is rarely enforced.
The law currently states that you cannot carry a weapon in a “courthouse annex.” According to Sorrell, the term “courthouse annex” has been inadequately defined, leading to misuses of the law.
Sorrell said, “What these courthouses started doing is saying ‘we use the park occasionally,’ or ‘we use this building over here in 1987 to hold a county commission [hearing] so that building is a courthouse annex,’ or ‘well, you get your car tag over here, so that’s a courthouse annex.’ So, they are just trying to say that every county building is a courthouse annex, and you can’t carry a gun there. What we’re doing is defining the term ‘courthouse annex.’ If it’s a building that’s being used temporarily as a courthouse annex, then the presiding circuit judge designates it for a certain period of time; it cannot be an indefinite thing forever.”
Sorrell said he is sure the bill will pass the Senate and hopeful that it will pass the House, saying it would be embarrassing for the House not to pass legislation on the GOP caucus priority.
“It’s not a guarantee, but it looks good to me,” Sorrell concluded.
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