In recent months, Montgomery's leadership has attempted to shift blame for the recent rash of violent crime that has swept the city.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, his chief of staff Chip Hill and other city officials have pointed the finger in multiple directions. Nearly all have criticized the legislature for passing constitutional carry in 2022 as a cause for the increased violence.

SEE: Montgomery Mayor Reed asks city council to fund $6 million violence intervention, again blames permitless carry for rise in gun crime

SEE ALSO: Montgomery leaders play the blame game as community outrage over crime grows

Permitless carry, also called constitutional carry, refers to the right of lawful citizens to carry a firearm on their person or vehicle without first purchasing a permit. The state passed a constitutional carry bill in the 2022 legislative session.

According to gun expert and founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) John Lott, who served as the senior advisor for Research and Statistics in the Office of Justice Programs and then the Office of Legal Policy in the U.S. Department of Justice during the Trump administration, suggesting that permitless carry creates more violent crime flies in the face of the evidence.

“The opposite has been the case,” Lott told 1819 News. “The attorney general in Ohio did a more sophisticated study, and most of the major urban areas had a drop in gun crime and violent crime after they instituted Constitutional carry. Look, there are all sorts of things that affect the crime rate. My own research indicates that policing is the most important single factor for doing that.”

Montgomery has certainly faced issues with policing. Just recently, the police chief resigned amidst allegations of sexual misconduct. That, combined with a shifting public opinion of the city’s leadership, has also led to a significantly diminished police force. Many former Montgomery cops told 1819 News that they and others left after they believed Reed wrongfully blamed an MPD officer for a 2016 officer-involved shooting that took the life of a black man and sent the white officer to prison.

“Often, what you see is politicians want to blame somebody else. They make policies that make it harder for police to go and do their job, and their response is, rather than accepting the culpability that they have, is to go and blame somebody else," Lott said. "Even if they hire to replace the older police they lose, it’s not the same. If you lose somebody who has 15 years of experience and replace him with somebody who’s been on the job for six months, the new guy is not going to be as effective as the guy you lost. It's going to take several years to make up for that. So there’s a real cost to doing that.”

He continued, “It’s also related to how progressive the leadership is. Look at Florida, for example; they’ve had no problem with losing police. They had police moving from other states to move to Florida. When you have it so that police think that their job is more difficult for many reasons, you’ll lose police in those places and make it difficult to replace them.” “…If you have a very progressive mayor, my guess is that there’s a good chance the district attorney is also fairly progressive. And if that’s the case, you could have a situation where police arrest someone, and nothing happens to them. They get released, so police think, ‘What’s the point?’”

While Lott acknowledged that violent crime is a multifaceted problem, he claims data shows a fairly straightforward way to deter crime.

“To me, it’s pretty straightforward: if you want to reduce crime, you have to make it risky for criminals to commit crimes with higher arrest rates, higher conviction rates, and longer prison sentences. You can also make it riskier for them to commit crimes by allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. The irony is that the same people who don’t want law enforcement to do its job are the same ones who don’t want individuals to be able to protect themselves."

It’s not just those in favor of permitless carry who believe the claims against it are a stretch. State Rep. Russell Bedsole (R-Alabaster), a 25-year law enforcement veteran who voted against the permitless carry bill in 2022, recently locked horns with Chip Hill on Twitter over Hill’s attempts to blame the legislature and constitutional carry.

SEE: State Rep. Bedsole on Montgomery mayor CoS's gun violence rant: 'My District has the same gun laws with not even a fraction of the gun violence'

While Bedsole said he believed doing away with pistol permits would remove a crucial tool needed by law enforcement to possibly catch criminals, he also said that blaming the legislature for passing constitutional carry for increased violent crime is a less-than-honest take.

“I was in the minority as far as the Republican Party goes because of seeing the world through the lens of someone who has been in law enforcement; I saw that the pistol permit requirement offered a valuable tool to law enforcement to prevent crimes proactively,” Bedsole told 1819 News.

“I’m not one that’s going to say permitless carry is responsible for the increased crime in Birmingham and Montgomery. I think there are greater societal issues that are going on across our state and country. These issues are not uniquely Republican or Democrat, so I won’t politicize them. We have issues in our community that we need to be serious about addressing. We need to make sure these young people have suitable role models that can teach them right and wrong and how to respect people as human beings.”

Bedsole said law enforcement in his area did extensive training on effective policing methods after the 2022 law was passed, which provided a seamless transition with no significant influx of violent crime.

RELATED: 'I don’t think that constitutional carry has had a bearing on crime': State Rep. Ingram, Montgomery mayor's office at odds over Alabama gun laws

“It could be a fair criticism to say that we could take some people off the street, but whether it’s a fair criticism to say that we would have less gun violence in our communities if that law wasn’t in place, I’m not sure we can connect those dots,” Bedsole said.

He continued, “I grew up in Montgomery, so the comments that I saw on Twitter, with serving in the legislature, I think there’s a lot of issues at play, so to unfairly blame it on the state legislature was a little tone deaf to ignore the issues in Montgomery that have nothing to do with the laws of our state.”

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