The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed controversial gun legislation that is adamantly opposed by law enforcement and business interests in the state that believe it could lead to more violence and an infringement on private property rights.
The bill would not allow employers to stop employees from storing a firearm in a vehicle on company property, would allow people to have a free lifetime revocable permit to carry a pistol in their vehicle, would allow people to openly carry firearms in public places, and would require a sheriff to issue or renew a permit within 30 days or to outline in writing why the permit was rejected.
The proposal also would expand a deadly force law to allow those operating a business to use deadly force in self defense if an intruder enters the business.
“This is all about making sure law-abiding citizens can protect themselves and their families,” said Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, sponsor of the legislation. “I cannot do anything about criminals.”
The Senate passed the bill 27-5 after more than five hours of debate and a number of proposed amendments. Senate Republicans shut off debate after Senate Minority Leader Vivian Davis Figures began a filibuster of the bill, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Figures, D-Mobile, said she could not support the proposal with law enforcement so adamantly opposed to it.
“They are slapping law enforcement in the face,” she said.
The Alabama Sheriff’s Association and the Business Council of Alabama publicly opposed the bill.
“I think it is fair to business. It is fair to law enforcement,” said Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, who worked with Beason on the legislation.
Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith, legislative chairman for the sheriff’s association, said he is disappointed that essentially every law enforcement officer and organization in the state opposed the legislation and said it would endanger the public and law enforcement, but state lawmakers bowed to the National Rifle Association and passed the bill.
Beason, at one point, proposed not having a permit to carry a pistol in a vehicle. After law enforcement groups said that took a valuable tool from law enforcement, he added in the permit but made it free for life although that permit is revocable. He said that dealt with a main concern from Alabama sheriffs, who signed a letter to lawmakers earlier in the week opposing the bill. Currently, people must have a concealed weapon permit to have a pistol in their vehicle.
“Personally, I believe you ought not to have to pay for your Second Amendment rights,” Beason said.
People would have to continue to pay for a permit to conceal and carry a pistol outside of their vehicle.
If a gun owner has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, Beason said that individual would not also need the pistol permit for a vehicle.
Smith, who said he was out of the state and had not had an opportunity to look at the final version with the amendments, said the permits would be for the vehicle and he can assure people that those in the business of crime would find a way around the law.
“Most every crook I know has a good family member to go get (the permit),” Smith said. Then, he said, family members could drive the vehicle legally while transporting a pistol, allowing drug dealers and thugs to carry pistols.
Smith said the proposal undermines the purpose of a permit and makes it worthless.
A sheriff could deny a permit if there is evidence the individual could commit a crime or harm someone. The applicant could appeal to district court.
Before, Beason said, “he didn’t have to give you a permit if he didn’t like you.”
Several senators expressed concerns about creating unfunded mandates for local government.
Beason said, in working with people for more than two months on the legislation, he felt they have met the safety concerns from law enforcement. He said he compromised and was not happy with the final product and did not expect other parties to be happy with it either.
Some other portions included are:
People could post on their property that they do not want someone on the property with a firearm. If the person carrying the firearm is asked to leave, the owner of the property could call law enforcement and have the person arrested for trespassing if the gun carrier refuses to leave.
The proposal would create a list of places where firearms could not be possessed without permission of the owner. The places include college and high school athletic events, courthouses, and the offices of police and sheriffs.
The law also changed the definition of a public demonstration and said that people could not carry a firearm to a permitted public demonstration with 10 or more people there. Beason had proposed allowing people to carry firearms at public demonstrations.
Figures expressed concerns about more people openly wearing a gun, which she said makes some people uncomfortable because of their life experiences.
“That’s asking for trouble,” Figures said.
“We’re going to end up with Alabama being the wild wild West,” she added.
Beason said he was uncertain how the bill would do in the House. He said he wishes lawmakers had taken up the bill sooner.
“There’s a lot of special interest groups who are not as enthusiastic about the Second Amendment as I am,” he said.
While some law enforcement officials have questioned the need for the gun overhaul in a state so supportive of gun rights, Beason said some municipalities have began to pass their own ordinances to restrict gun rights.
“Most of these municipal ordinances are harassing law-abiding citizens,” he said.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen