State gun laws fix take effect this week

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A slew of new laws restricting access to guns for mentally ill Alabamians took effect on Tuesday.

Residents convicted of any state designated “crime of violence”; misdemeanor domestic violence; or anyone adjudicated mentally unsound or under order of protection can now no longer legally purchase a gun.

All residents involuntarily committed for mental illness-related reasons must now be reported to the state by local probate judges (a decision which can be appealed), as must anyone awarded a “not guilty” verdict in a criminal case using an insanity defense.

Tuscaloosa state Rep. Chris England – who proposed the law signed over the summer by Gov. Robert Bentley – told AL.com the laws weren’t meant to rein in access specifically for Alabama residents, but rather to bring state statute in line with federal law so the statutes can be enforced by local law enforcement.

The legislation “expands it to where the feds already are and hopefully will provide further protection for those in domestic violence situations or prevent those with a mental illness from legally purchasing a weapon,” the Republican lawmaker said.

The now-enacted bill also contains two expansions of Yellowhammer State residents’ rights to bear arms: minors are now legally allowed to carry a pistol for training or hunting purposes or for organized competitions; and employees – public or private sector – are now cleared to keep a firearm in their personal vehicle while parked or operated in a parking lot.

The new law also gives teeth to one already extant, but unenforced state statute. Carrying a firearm into a facility marked with guards, barriers and signs to the effect of prohibiting firearms is now punishable as a Class C misdemeanor.

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