Interim Montgomery Police Chief Ramona Harris ticked off a list of city crime statistics to the senators on Wednesday. Seventy-seven homicides in 2021, 69 with firearms. 330 assault with firearm.
With those numbers, Harris said, the Alabama Legislature should pause before getting rid of concealed pistol permits in the state.
“There’s a national spike in gun violence and we are considering making it easy to access firearms, instead of looking at ways to remove them from our streets,” she said. “This bill is dangerous legislation and detriment to law enforcement.”
But the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, on a 6 to 4 vote. The legislation heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Allen’s bill would get rid of permit requirements for concealed weapons in the state by deleting a law that requires individuals to acquire a permit for a concealed weapon.
As filed, the bill would not eliminate current restrictions on carrying guns in schools, or in businesses that forbid weapons on their premises.
A similar bill, sponsored by Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Citronelle, has been filed in the House.
Allen and supporters of the measure said that it open carry was already law in Alabama and that the permits were an unnecessary infringement on Second Amendment rights.
“I don’t understand why the people behind me believe that as soon as you put a coat on, you’re going to be inherently more dangerous,” said Art Thomm, a state legislative director for the National Rifle Association. “This changes nothing of who can possess a firearm, where they can possess a firearm, or how. It’s just that they can wear a coat now where they couldn’t before.”
Law enforcement officials, who filled up the committee room on Wednesday, said the concealed carry requirement gives officers a tool that allows them to de-escalate situations with those who have the permits and to potentially investigate crimes for those who do not. Ed Delmore, the chief of police for the Gulf Shores Police Department, noted that Charlie Hanger, then an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer, arrested Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh because McVeigh did not have a permit for a concealed weapon. (Hanger originally pulled McVeigh over for an expired registration.)
“If you pass this, that arrest would not have happened in the same situation here,” said. “We don’t stand here opposing weapons. We don’t stand here opposing the Second Amendment. What we’re asking for is a common sense solution, and this isn’t it.”
The committee split along party lines in approving the amendment. Republican Sens. Will Barfoot of Pike Road; Sam Givhan of Huntsville; Del Marsh of Anniston; Larry Stutts of Tuscumbia; Arthur Orr of Decatur and Tom Whatley of Auburn voted for the bill. Democratic Sens. Linda Coleman-Madison of Birmingham; Vivian Davis Figures of Mobile; Bobby Singleton of Greensboro and Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham voted against it. Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, abstained.
The senators who voted for the bill did not say anything in committee. Figures, whose house was shot 23 times in late June of last year, said she owned a gun but opposed a measure at a time “when gun violence is just off the charts.”
“It’s got to be stopped at some point,” she said. “And when you have people feeling more and more like they can carry a gun anywhere, anyway they want to, it just has the potential to lead to other things.”
The committee earlier approved another bill from Allen that would nullify federal gun laws in the state on a 6 to 4 vote. Democrats said the bill was a dead letter due to the federal supremacy clause.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or email@example.com.