The House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee held a packed public hearing on Wednesday to discuss the permitless carry bill, and several people were there to speak in opposition and in support of the bill.
Currently, Alabama requires the purchase of a concealed carry permit – sometimes called a pistol permit – if a gun owner wants to carry their handgun with them in their vehicle or concealed under a jacket or in a purse. Permitless carry would allow Alabama gun owners to carry concealed or in a motor vehicle without purchasing a permit from their county sheriff. Many gun owners refer to this as constitutional carry.
House Bill 272 is the latest version of permitless carry to be considered by the House. It replaced both House Bill 6 and HB66 to address some of the concerns brought by the business community and others. HB272, HB66, and HB6 are all sponsored by State Rep. Shane Stringer (R-Satsuma), though other legislators have sponsored their own permitless carry bills.
Those in opposition of the bill included several sheriffs and their deputies, and Leeds Police Chief Paul Irwin.
“I have seen a lot of weapons checked because that person did not have a permit,” Irwin said. “We were able to check that weapon and found that many of them were tied to a crime.”
Irwin said that the permit requirement is a useful investigative tool for law enforcement.
“There are a lot of weapons out there and we see it every day,” Irwin said. “We take thousands of weapons off of the street.”
Sonny Brasfield is the Executive Director of the County Commissions Association of Alabama.
“This is the eighth or ninth year I have testified about pistol permits,” Brasfield said. “We still stand with the sheriffs.
“The issue is not whether or not you can carry a firearm in a vehicle, you can carry a firearm in a vehicle, but the gun must just be unloaded and out of reach of the driver. The county commissions [have] stood with law enforcement for the last decade. We continue to stand with law enforcement. I encourage you to stand with law enforcement.”
Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry spoke in favor of the legislation.
“I support HB272,” Gentry said. “We already have open carry, and I can carry a loaded AR-15 in the seat of my car with me legally. We are talking about concealed carry and carrying in a vehicle without a permit.
“Criminals do not abide by the law. The more restrictions we have, the more restrictions a law-abiding person has to follow.”
State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) said, “On the street, it is very difficult to conceal an AR-15 or rifle. It is not difficult to conceal a handgun. When you require a permit that creates a legal pathway to ask about that pistol.
“I think as a law enforcement officer, doesn’t it make you safer that that person has a permit?"
“I spent 11 years working narcotics not just in Cullman County, but across Alabama,” Gentry said. “I was taught to be nice and kind to everyone you meet, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
“Whether or not they have a permit does not make a difference. We have had incidents where people with a permit have done bad things. A criminal is going to be a criminal.
“All law enforcement, when you stop and interact with people, be tactically sound whether the person has a permit or not. I treat every traffic stop the same.”
Eddie Fulmer is the President of Bamacarry – an Alabama-based pro-Second Amendment rights group.
“Nobody is paying me to be here,” Fulmer said. “For 10 years, we have begged a little tidbit of our freedom returned to us.”
Fulmer said we should not have to show papers and pay for a permit to exercise rights that “were given by God alone and guaranteed in the Constitution.”
“Some 21 states have already passed this and crime did not go up, stop the fear-mongering,” Fulmer said. “No state that borders Alabama requires a permission slip to keep a loaded gun in a vehicle. There is no reason not to pass this and give Alabamians our rights back.”
Art Thomm is with the National Rifle Association.
“Some 21 states have already passed this into the law,” Thomm said. “There has been no increase in crime or threats to officer safety.
“This does not change who can carry, where they carry ... or what they can carry. That is the official [position] of the Alabama Sheriffs Association. They don’t want law-abiding citizens to carry firearms outside of their home.”
Montgomery Community activist Ja'Mel Brown said, “This is a black and white issue because on one side you got a group of people complaining about their rights like a child complaining about their right.
“Y'all are going back to your gated communities because you don’t care about Black people who are killed. Follow the damn law like everybody else.”
State Rep. Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville) said, “There is a lot of Black-on-Black crime, but most of those guys don’t have permits.”
HB272 is a compromise bill that addresses many of the concerns about HB6, especially from the business and education communities.
State Rep. Andrew Sorrell (R-Muscle Shoals) who has been working to pass permitless carry for four years told 1819 News after the hearing that there are going to be more changes in the bill and that some amendments will be added to the bill.
HB272 was expected to be voted on by the House committee on Wednesday. A Senate version of permitless carry has already been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. That bill could be on the floor of the Senate as soon as next week. Permitless carry has passed out of the Senate in previous legislative sessions. The House however has never voted on a permitless carry bill.
Thursday was day nine of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.