Alabama lawmakers gave final passage today to a bill to repeal the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed handgun, an idea proposed for about the last 10 years.
Gov. Kay Ivey has signed it into law. It takes effect in January.
The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Shane Stringer, a Republican from Mobile County, asked the House to approve a revised version of his bill this afternoon. The House approved it 70-29 on mostly a party line vote, with most Republicans supporting it and Democrats opposed.
The bill went back to the Senate, where it was approved by a vote of 24-6. That sent it to Ivey’s desk.
“Unlike states who are doing everything in their power to make it harder for law abiding citizens, Alabama is reaffirming our commitment to defending our Second Amendment rights,” Ivey said in a statement. “I have always stood up for the rights of law abiding gunowners, and I am proud to do that again today.”
The House passed the bill on Feb. 22. The Senate passed it last week but made changes. The latest version was produced by a conference committee of three representatives and three senators.
Supporters of the legislation call it “constitutional carry” and say the requirement for a permit and a background check infringes on the Second Amendment.
“I am deeply thankful to my colleagues in the Legislature for passing this constitutional carry measure, which allows Alabamians to exercise their fundamental rights without first having to pay a gun tax in the form of permit fees,” Stringer said in a statement. “Those who still wish to purchase a permit for reciprocity with other states or other reasons continue to retain that option under this law.”
The bill has been one of the most controversial of the year, with opposition from the Alabama Sheriffs Association and others in law enforcement. They say the permit requirement is an important public safety tool.
Democrats in the House and Senate have opposed the bill, saying it will increase gun violence and citing the concerns of sheriffs.
Stringer, who worked for the Mobile County sheriff’s office for 18 years and was police chief in Citronelle and Satsuma, said a new database of people prohibited from having firearms because of a criminal conviction or a mental illness adjudicated by a court will be more important for public safety than the permit system. Stringer said the permit system has been flawed because some sheriffs have sold permits without conducting background checks.
Some other former law enforcement officers in the House support the bill.
Although permits will not be required under the new law, they will still be available. Some gunowners buy permits so they can carry their handguns in other states that recognize permits issued in Alabama.
Lawmakers passed a bill last year to create the database, standardize the background check process for sheriffs, and offer lifetime permits.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency expects to have the data base ready in October. The bill to repeal the permit requirement would take effect in January.
Sheriffs depend on permit fees to help fund their offices. Stringer’s bill includes a grant program to help sheriffs offset the loss of dollars from the fees.
Twenty-one states have approved concealed carry without a permit. Stringer said none of those states has made any effort to return to the mandatory permit system.
No permit is required to openly carry a handgun in Alabama. But a permit is required to carry one concealed under a jacket or in a purse, for example. A permit is required to carry a pistol in a vehicle unless it is unloaded and locked up out of reach of the driver and passengers.
Stringer said one of the needs for the bill is that a vehicle should be considered an extension of the home, where there is no permit requirement.
Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, sponsored the bill in the Senate. Allen has proposed bills to repeal the permit requirement for a decade.
The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action applauded the bill.
“The NRA worked tirelessly with state leaders and legislators to pass the most significant pro-Second Amendment measure in Alabama history,” NRA-ILA Executive Director Jason Ouimet said in a statement. “We thank Gov. Ivey, bill author Rep. Shane Stringer, legislative leaders, and every lawmaker who supported this landmark legislation.”
According to the NRA, other states that allow concealed carry without a permit are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Volunteers with the Alabama chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which promotes stronger gun laws in the interest of public safety, came to the State House in recent weeks urging lawmakers to reject the bill.
“Governor Ivey and all of the lawmakers who voted yes on this reckless legislation have chosen the gun lobby over law enforcement and public safety,” Paula Wilson, a volunteer with the Alabama chapter of Moms Demand Action said in a statement today. “They want you to believe that they’re standing up for law-abiding gun owners, but don’t let them fool you. They’ve done the exact opposite — putting our families, communities, and first responders at greater risk. They’ve made us all less safe today, and they know it, because law enforcement has told them so. They’ve chosen not to listen.”
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