The Alabama House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security voted through legislation on the issue of permitless carry.
The meeting was a packed room filled with gun control advocates, Mom’s Demand Action, Alabama Sheriffs, and supporters of the legislation.
House Bill 272 (HB272), presented by Rep. Shane Stringer, seeks to allow a person to carry a pistol on their person or in their vehicle without having first to acquire a permit, which costs progressively more depending on the duration of the permit.
“A lot of work’s been done with the members and different groups trying to accommodate and make this the best bill possible,” Stringer said.
“Basically, what this bill does is give law-abiding citizens that are able to own a firearm, the ability to carry that firearm concealed or in their car for their protection; it’s not very complicated,” Stringer said. “It [doesn’t] change who can and cannot carry, and it does not change where you can and cannot carry; it only addresses the permit itself. This bill does not do away with permits. Permits will still be available for reciprocity, and for school zones, federal law requires that you have a pistol permit.”
Stringer claimed that he had reached out to sheriffs in states that had passed similar legislation and found no increase in crime and a few cases of decreased numbers of permits acquired.
Stringer further pointed to an Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) investigation that found 22 Alabama sheriffs were not doing the proper background checks. He also noted that none of the states that have passed similar legislation had made any effort to repeal.
“The fact of the matter is criminals don’t adhere to laws," said Stringer. "They don’t obey the laws we have now. We cannot legislate an evil heart from Montgomery.”
There were two amendments presented on the bill.
The first amendment was a matter of some contention. It cleared up specific technical citations of the legal code and made it a Class B misdemeanor for carrying a pistol on certain restricted premises without a permit.
Rep. Chris England (D – Tuscaloosa) objected to the amendment, stating there were already laws prohibiting the carrying of pistols on restricted premises and the existing law carried the penalty of a class C misdemeanor.
Despite extensive discussion on the amendment, England still insisted that he did not get sufficient clarification on the issue.
“If y’all don’t know what it says or know what it applies to, just say that," England said. "Because what it says right now is that you got an arbitrary distinction between two different locations, but you got a different penalty for them.”
The amendment was recorded as having passed through the committee. However, there was confusion during the voting process, and there was no actual vote on the first amendment. England presented a motion to table the amendment, which was voted down. Following that vote, the commissioner continued as if the amendment itself had received a vote when it, in fact, had not.
Rep. Rex Reynolds (R – Madison) offered the second amendment to the bill.
The amendment restated those police powers of search, seizure, and investigation were still fully enforced, as well as a “duty to declare” section.
Duty to declare states that a person must declare the presence of a firearm when asked by law enforcement.
Under current law, a person is not obligated to inform a law enforcement officer if they have a weapon in the vehicle. According to the amendment, the officer must ask for a person to be compelled to declare. There is no stipulation for penalties should a person refuse to declare or lie about the presence of a weapon in their vehicle.
Stringer did accept the second amendment to the bill as friendly. Rather, he stated that he would like to address the amendment on the House floor.
“There are some law enforcement officers who believe that the ability to see that pistol, and take it, and inquire about it makes them safer,” England said.
“Any cop that thinks that anything to do with this bill or the permit system makes then any safer has got a misconception,” Stringer retorted.
Rep. Allen Farley (R – McCalla) openly opposed the bill stating that he believes it intends to “defund the police.”
Farley addressed the accusation that the sheriffs merely use the monies collected from pistol permits as a “slush fund.”
“Let me tell you what you’re fixing to defund if you pass this bill,” Farley said. "Sheriffs in Alabama use the pistol permit fund for school resource officers, for patrol cars, bulletproof vests, body cameras, for radios and computers for cars, for automatic defibrillation, tactical training, extradition of felons from other states, additional evidence, investigative tools, the D.A.R.E. program in the schools, and for children’s advocacy programs. So let’s be serious. What we’re doing here is defunding the police.”
The bill received a favorable report with both amendments, passing with a vote of 8-5 and two abstentions.
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