Two bills currently under consideration by the Alabama Legislature are receiving special attention from the National Rifle Association’s political action arm, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). The pro-gun group is urging its Alabama members to contact their state representatives and senators in support of the bills over the next week and a half during the legislature’s spring break.
The first of the bills, SB 14 sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, would allow Alabamians without certain criminal records to carry pistols, “without a license on property under his or 14 her control, in his or her vehicle, in his or her 15 place of abode, in his or her fixed place of 16 business, and on the property of another or a 17 vehicle owned by another, with consent.”
While Alabama is a so-called “Open Carry” state, meaning citizens over the age of 18 may legally carry a holstered firearm unconcealed without a permit, under current law a gun is considered concealed as soon as an open carrier steps into his or her vehicle, requiring a permit issued by their county’s sheriff.
The NRA-ILA and other proponents of the bill argue current law constitutes an undue burden on the Second Amendment rights of Alabamians.
The most vocal opponents of the bill thus far have been from the sheriffs themselves, who argue that allowing those without permits to carry weapons in their vehicles would put their deputies in danger.
“The only thing we’re saying is every time we turn around an officer is being killed just because he’s wearing a badge,” said Alabama Sheriffs Association executive director Bobby Timmons during a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “What is a life worth?”
The bill was eventually OK’d by the committee on a 6-3 vote.
The second bill, SB 304 sponsored by powerful Rules Committee chairman Sen. Jabo Wagonner, would allow Alabamians to obtain their concealed carry permit in any county in the state.
Currently, although the sheriffs of each of Alabama’s 67 counties are required to remit permits to any law-abiding citizen who applies, the fees charged by their offices can vary widely.
“A CWL (concealed weapons license) issued in Jefferson County ($7.50 a year) confers the exact same right across the state as a CWL issued in Baldwin County ($25.00 a year),” argued the NRA-ILA in a recent action alert. “Yet, over a 5-year period those rights cost approximately $85.00 more in Baldwin County. The permittee receives no additional benefit for this more expensive permit. As a result, the counties that charge excessive fees are simply generating revenue from a small group of law-abiding residents.”
SB 304 sailed through its hearing in the committee for Governmental Affairs, earning a unanimous vote for favorable report.
While the two bills may appear a sure thing, with their up swell of support from one of the nation’s most powerful political outfits and sponsorships from some of the Alabama Senate’s most senior members, similar bills have been handily defeated after outrage from the Sheriffs Association and other law enforcement groups.
The legislature will reconvene on April 5.