Gun bill advances to Senate; Sheriff voices opposition

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An Alabama Senate committee approved a bill Wednesday that would repeal the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Voting for the bill were Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City; Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia; Cam Ward, R-Alabaster; Tom Whatley, R-Auburn; Sens. Greg Reed, R-Jasper and Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville.

Voting against it were Hank Sanders, D-Selma; Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro and
Sens. Linda Coleman-Madison.

The bill will now advance to the full Senate for consideration but not without controversy from both local representatives and law enforcement officials.

“No I’m against it. I don’t think they should do away with the pistol permit,” said Houston County Sheriff, Donald Valenza. 

Sheriffs around the state have spoken out against the bill through social media or other news outlets and a common concern is public safety.

“If they do away with it, then there will be no background checks on individuals carrying a gun. You go to an authorized gun store to purchase a hand gun, they ask you do you have concealed carry permit and if you do you can buy the gun and walk out without any kind of background check,” explained Valenza. “It’s a huge risk to the community.”

“As it is today, I’m a little concerned about just allowing anyone to have a pistol permit,” said State Representative, Paul Lee. “There’s always the danger of those that may have the mental issues that does not need a pistol permit.”

Secondly, it could limit law enforcement and their ability to protect.

“It gives us  a little more to work with because if we had a car with five individuals in it and one is clean, the other four are convicted and there are five guns in the car we know what they are up to, there is nothing we can do there is no way can intervene in that particular situation,” explained Valenza. 

Lastly, traveling across state lines without a permit could be a major problem. Currently, there are 26 states that honor Alabama’s pistol permit.

“We’re 12 miles from Florida and 12 miles from Georgia so we’re crossing state lines all the time with those that have pistol permits,” said Lee.

However, if Alabama repeals the requirement to carry a permit, that doesn’t necessarily mean other states will pardon you because the law changed in Alabama.

“You go into one of these other states without a permit and  you’re possibly going to get charged with felony possession of a firearm,” said Valenza. “You can get a $20 year permit or you can go into another state and get caught without it and pay $20,000 to try and get off that felony.”

Proponents of the bill have pointed out that sheriff’s departments profit from the permit sales, but there are restrictions on how it can be spent and it is mainly spent on equipment to help law enforcement to be more efficient and more able to address the situations that they face on a daily basis.

“It does help us purchase items for training, cars, it’s a discretionary fund but the biggest concern we have is there will be no one giving background checks to carry a gun,” stated Valenza.

“I respect the Sheriffs opinion very much because they put their lives on the line everyday and if someone is willing to do that for me then I’m willing to listen to them very closely,” said Lee.

Currently the bill is in the Senate,  and would still have to pass through the house and be signed into law by the governor before any changes would happen.


States that recognize Alabama’s permit:

Arizona, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming

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