Taniesa L. Sullivan | The Weekly Ledger News | Alabama Daily News | Second Amendment
ALABAMA NEWS - Sheriff offices around the state are training their deputies for a loosening of gun laws in the new year as gun rights groups celebrate what they believe is long overdue.
Beginning Jan. 1, Alabamians will not be required to obtain permits to carry concealed handguns in most places in the state.
After a lengthy debate during the 2022 legislative session, on March 10, 2022, Gov. Kay Ivey signed House Bill 272, putting Alabama on track to become a permitless carry state in 2023.
In March Gov. Ivey said, “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.”
“I have always stood up for the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and I am proud to do that again today,” said Gov. Ivey in March.
Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, who carried the bill in the Senate said, “It guarantees to the citizens of Alabama the right to carry without having to pay a fee to fulfill their constitutional rights.”
The new law means people won’t need to purchase a permit to carry handguns in their vehicles. The National Rifle Association-backed bill does, however, list several areas where handguns are still prohibited, including police stations, prisons, jails, mental health facilities, courthouses, athletic events, and other areas where state or federal laws prohibit firearms.
Private business and property owners will still have the right to ask people carrying weapons to leave the premises, and if they refuse, Allen said, police may be called for trespassing.
Support for the permitless carry bill was helped by a 2021 law. It created a prohibited person database that allows law enforcement officers to view a comprehensive list of all Alabamians prohibited from carrying handguns. That database became operational in the fall.
Still, many Alabama sheriffs opposed the law change, saying the screening process required in getting a permit makes the public safer. They have also argued for years that they need the revenue permits to bring in. Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama, said pistol permits generate an estimated $12 million to $14 million each year statewide.
Pistol permits will still be available for purchase through sheriff’s offices, and may be necessary if traveling out of state. According to the United States Concealed Carry Association, Alabama permits are recognized by Mississippi, Georgia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Indiana. If traveling to another state, one would have to obtain a permit recognized by that specific state.
Brasfield said that there has already been a significant loss in permit revenue this year as citizens became aware of the new law. He said that the permit revenue for 2022 will likely be 30% less than it was in 2021, which amounts to a decrease of about $3.5 million.
The bill also created a grant program to allow counties and sheriffs to receive money to offset their losses from permit sales, but some believe the program cannot fully address the issue.
“It’s not a long-term solution,” Alabama Sheriffs Association President and Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told the media.
According to Brasfield, the program would allow $5 million in grants to be given in the first year but only $2 million the following year, and the grants would only be available for three years.
“We believe the reimbursement should continue and, of course, based on our research a reduction in the fund to $2 million would be insufficient,” Brasfield said.
Brasfield also said the program would use 2022 as the base year to measure how much grant money is needed to make up the difference in revenue for the following years. He said not using 2021 as the base year is a mistake since 2022 already saw a significant decrease in revenue from pistol permits.
Brasfield, the ACCA, and others around the state are working with state legislators to find a solution to these issues in the next legislative session.
“Hopefully there will be a way that we can work with the legislature…and see if we can establish an increase in the amount and then of course extend its life beyond just a few years that’s currently in the legislation,” Jones said.
Allen said he was not aware of any efforts to revise the grant program but that lawmakers would know more when they convene in March.