A bill that would allow Alabama residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit is headed again to the Alabama Legislature, and the bill’s sponsor says the pressure will be on lawmakers who oppose it.
“It’s an election year, so we want to make sure citizens in all 105 House districts and all 35 Senate districts know where their lawmakers stand,” said Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa.
Allen has filed a bill for the 2018 legislative session that would allow pistol owners to carry their weapons concealed in most public places in the state without a permit. Current law requires concealed carriers to get a permit from their local sheriff. Sheriffs can deny a permits to people they consider to be a danger to themselves or others, based on court records involving a person’s mental state.
It’s already legal to openly carry a gun in a holster in most public places, following the passage of a 2013 open-carry bill. Gun rights advocates claim open-carry was always legal here, though before 2013 wearing a gun in public would often lead to a fine.
Gun-related deaths hit a 16-year high in Alabama in 2015, though it’s unclear whether the rise is related to the open-carry law.
Allen’s bill would remove the requirement to get a permit, and would remove a clause in state law that prohibits carrying firearms at political demonstrations.
Sheriffs and police chiefs largely opposed an identical bill Allen brought to the Legislature earlier this year. That bill died after lawmakers agreed to appoint a committee to study similar gun laws in other states, postponing action on the bill until the study could be completed.
“There’s no question in my mind that, as the bill is written now, it would make us less safe and would be a problem for law enforcement,” said Rep, Allen Treadaway, R-Morris.
A Birmingham police officer in his day job, Treadaway chairs the House Public Safety Committee that put the bill on hold.
Treadaway said that particularly in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, the change to rules on guns at demonstrations seems like a bad idea. He said police often use the pistol permit requirement to catch people who shouldn’t own guns because of past criminal convictions, even when police records on those convictions are slow to update.
Treadaway said the Legislature’s task force was designed to give lawmakers a closer look at the effect of permitless concealed carry in other states. Allen said the committee was just a delaying tactic.
“That’s just a method of killing a bill,” he said.
The House panel is supposed to file a final report on Oct. 1, according to a House resolution. It’s unclear whether the panel has been appointed yet. Treadaway said he didn’t know; attempts to reach Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, were not successful Thursday.
The Legislature reconvenes in January.