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A new constitutional carry law set to go into effect next year in Alabama will end the requirement for state park visitors to receive written permission to carry a firearm on park property, according to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

The state park written permission requirement was recently the subject of a federal lawsuit filed by William Lee Mitchum, an Alabama native and Mississippi resident, against DCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. Mitchell said a Meaher State Park manager denied his second amendment right to possess a firearm for "immediate self-defense" in July, according to his complaint filed on October 14.

Blankenship told 1819 News on Wednesday the State Park firearms policy was "consistent with current Alabama law" but would change once the constitutional carry law goes into effect.

"The State Parks firearms rule will change on January 1, 2023, when the new Alabama law goes into effect and will not require written permission or a concealed carry permit for handguns," Blankenship said.

Mitchum told 1819 News he looks "forward to seeing the rule eliminated and the unconstitutional posters and signage being removed from our public parks."

"Just because they have a rule that might follow state law doesn't make it constitutionally sound," Mitchum said. "Regardless if this resulted from public outcry or from my federal lawsuit, or a change in state statute, DCNR appears to have now recognized law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment right to carry firearms on state property for self-defense without obtaining permission."

Mitchum said officials with DCNR and the Alabama Office of Attorney General had previously made no mention to him of the written permission policy ending next year before he filed his suit.

An online copy of Alabama State Parks Rules and Regulations from 2018 states it "shall be unlawful for any person other than a duly authorized law enforcement officer to possess or carry into any State Park any form of firearm without written permission of the manager in charge of the State Park visited; provided, however, nothing in this regulation prohibits the possession of handguns by lawfully licensed persons for personal protection, provided the handguns are not used for any unlawful purpose."

Mitchum was also critical of a recent opinion by the Office of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in August that states the "USS Alabama Battleship Commission may promulgate rules that prohibit firearms in its park if it determines that doing so is necessary or convenient to effect the purposes for which it has been established or incidental or necessary to the discharge of its powers and duties."  

"Basically, what they have is an open-ended government employee discretion on a constitutional right," Mitchum said. "It's discriminatory and discretionary. Constitutional rights are not at the discretion of government officials."

A Marshall spokesman declined to comment about the lawsuit.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.

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