Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Commissioner Chris Blankenship have asked the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama to delay deciding on a lawsuit against Alabama’s written permission firearm policy in state parks until after their new plan is implemented in March.
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 Blankenship and Marshall. Mitchum 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.
In the state’s motion filed Monday, attorneys for Blankenship and Marshall wrote that DCNR will “stop enforcing” the Alabama State Parks rule requiring written permission to carry a firearm in state park properties at the beginning of 2023.
“In March of this year, the Alabama Legislature passed [constitutional carry], which amended numerous firearm provisions in the Alabama Code,” the motion stated. “Relevant here, the Act 'eliminate[d] the requirement for a person to obtain a concealed carry permit to lawfully carry a pistol.' When the Act goes into effect on January 1, 2023, the Department will stop enforcing the Rule’s permission language. In late March, the Department began the process of updating its rules and regulations in light of the Act. On November 17, 2022, the Department submitted a 'Notice of Intended Action' to amend the Rule.”
According to the motion to stay, the amendment to the state park firearms policy allows lawfully authorized persons to carry handguns without permission, allows persons lodging at a State Park to possess long guns if they are unloaded and secured, and allows the Commissioner to designate locations where the possession of a firearm is prohibited.
The notice-and-comment period on DCNR’s amendment to their firearms rule will end Jan. 9, 2023, and DCNR anticipates the amended rule will go into effect on March 17, 2023.
“If adopted, the amended Rule will likely moot much of [Michum’s] lawsuit,” attorneys for Blankenship and Marshall state in the state’s motion to stay. “Plaintiff would likely need to amend his complaint to challenge the revised rule. Though Plaintiff has told Defendants that he will likely have issues with the amended Rule, Defendants do not believe that proceeding with discovery about a rule that in all likelihood will be amended is in the interest of judicial economy.”
Mitchum told 1819 News on Tuesday in response to the state’s motion to stay that “if the State was concerned about “judicial economy," "they had more than ample opportunity to address this prior to my lawsuit being filed.”
Mitchum said, “It’s worth noting that I filed written complaints to both the Alabama Attorney General and DCNR in July, along with a notice of intent to sue in August prior to filing my lawsuit in October.”
“Commissioner Blankenship and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall are attempting to use the new law, which allows for concealed carry without a permit, to save face and avoid public embarrassment,” Mitchum added. “We know this because they have had since March to address this unconstitutional park rule and have now only acted when they were required to respond to my lawsuit.”
Mitchum said the state’s motion to stay was asking “permission to continue to impose unconstitutional restrictions on our Second Amendment right to self-defense in non-sensitive government locations [Alabama State Parks].”
“They go on to ask the court to delay proceedings while they attempt to replace one unconstitutional rule with another unconstitutional rule,” Mitchum said. “Commissioner Blankenship doesn’t have discretionary authority to designate firearm-restricted areas. These government-instituted gun-free zones are a threat to everyday law-abiding citizens and I plan to challenge their request to delay court proceedings. The Supreme Court in Bruen, McDonald, and Heller decisions made it clear that when the government imposes rules involving the Second Amendment, the State has the burden to show that these restrictions comply with the intentions of the Second Amendment when it was adopted by 'we the people.' The rule taking effect in January 2023 fails to do this.”
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