The Senate Judiciary Committee this week approved a bill that would create a statewide system concealed carry permit system.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika, would authorize the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to create the system. Individuals would be able to apply for one-year, five-year or lifetime permits with their local sheriff.
The sheriff would have 30 days to decide on an application. A sheriff would run a criminal background check on applicants and would have the power to deny an application. Upon granting a permit, the sheriff would notify ALEA.
Lifetime permits would expire after an individual moved out of state.
Price described the bill as a public safety measure.
“The most important thing we bring out of this is information and uniformity of this information,” he said. “Bringing all 67 counties together will bring safety to our officers.”
Debate over the bill led to some unusual configurations of proponents and opponents. Gun access advocates ended up on both sides of the argument. The National Rifle Association supported the bill, as did Barry Cleland, director of operations for Alabama Gun Rights.
“I’m hoping with this bill, with a few tweaks on it take the thirst the sheriff have for money away from them and let a ALEA do a better job managing this,” he said.
Eddie Fulmer, president of Bama Carry, a gun rights group, raised objections to putting information on law-abiding gun owners within a database.
Sheriffs spoke against the bill. Derrick Cunningham, the Montgomery County sheriff and president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, said they were not consulted in the drafting of the legislations. Cunningham said the sheriffs wanted to raise the age where individuals could qualify for these permits, saying that a background check might not pick up anything on an 18-year-old.
Cunningham also said the sheriffs were in the middle of implementing their own database.
“We have already paid and we have a software vendor producing a database right now,” he said. “Hopefully it will be out in the next 20 to 30 days.”
Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack rejected the idea that sheriffs were looking for money, noting the bill would raise fees to go to ALEA. He also objected moving the bill to Montgomery, calling it a local issue.
“Everyone in this room knows who their sheriff is,” he said. “Can everyone in this room name someone at ALEA? … This is a local safety, law enforcement issue.”
The committee voted the bill out on a voice vote. But Democrats and Republicans on the committee told Price he needed to work with sheriffs on the legislation.
“You really need to sit down and work with them, because they are where the rubber meets the road,” said Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham.
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