Alabama Lawmaker Says He's Got The Votes For Constitutional Carry

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

We’ll be taking a look back at some of the biggest 2A stories of the year over the next few weeks, and I know that Constitutional Carry is going to make the list. Over the past eleven months Texas, Utah, Montana, Tennessee, and Iowa all adopted Constitutional Carry laws, which means that in 21 states legal gun owners no longer have to obtain a government permission slip before exercising their right to bear arms.

Several other states are moving forward with their own Constitutional Carry bills, and it’s likely that the ranks of the Constitutional Carry states is going to grow even larger in 2022. For example, one Alabama lawmaker is convinced that he’s got the votes to make permitless carry a reality in the next legislative session.

Representative Shane Stringer (R-Citronelle) says you shouldn’t have to purchase a permit to carry a concealed gun because the Second Amendment guarantees your right to do so. His “Constitutional carry” proposal would eliminate pistol permit requirements in Alabama.

“Alabama is already an open carry state. You can walk outside your house with a gun on your side, as long as it’s open. If it’s wintertime, and you put a coat over it, you need a permit,” said Stringer.

… Stringer says he’s been working with other lawmakers and believes he has enough support to pass his plan and get rid of pistol permit requirements next session. He says many lawmakers were swayed because the state is now in the process of creating a prohibited person database. It will list people who are ineligible to possess a firearm due to state or federal convictions or mental health illness adjudicated by a court.

“This prohibited person database is the best tool that we’ve ever needed in law enforcement, “said Stringer. “Instead of being arrested on a misdemeanor, no pistol permit you could be arrested for certain persons forbidden, which is a felony.”

One of Stringer’s most vocal opponents isn’t a fellow lawmaker, but Stringer’s former boss. Sam Cochrane is the sheriff of Mobile County, and he actually fired Stringer from his role as sheriff’s captain after Stringer introduced a Constitutional Carry bill back in January. After he was terminated, Cochrane’s spokesperson said outright that Stringer was dismissed because of “different political views held by his [Cochrane’s’] administration,” and later told press outlets that Constitutional Carry and a Second Amendment Sanctuary bill proposed by Stringer were the primary reasons for his ouster.

I thought it was a shameful thing for Cochrane to do at the time, and I haven’t changed my opinion. As it turns out, neither has the sheriff, at least when it comes to permitless carry.

Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran says eliminating the requirement puts the public in danger and would take away a necessary law enforcement tool. One example, Cochran says, is the arrest earlier this year of Hezekiah Belfon. Before Belfon was wanted on five counts of attempted murder for allegedly being the triggerman in last month’s Ladd-Peebles stadium shooting, the 19-year-old was charged in May for not having a pistol permit and receiving stolen property.

“Had it not been against the law for him to possess that pistol without a permit, the officers would not have had a right to seize the weapon and run a check on it to determine it was stolen,” said Cochran.

This isn’t the great argument that Cochrane thinks it is. A 19-year old is arrested in May for not having a pistol permit, but that didn’t stop him from apparently acquiring another gun and allegedly using it to shoot at others during a high school football game in October. It’s hard to argue that the current law is necessary when it did absolutely nothing to prevent Belfon from allegedly carrying out his crime, but the sheriff is doing exactly that.. all while sounding more like a gun control activist than a Second Amendment supporter.

“In the words of the great Antonin Scalia, he said ‘rights are not unlimited.’ Just like the religious freedom does not give you the right to do human sacrifices and freedom of speech does not give you the right to holler fire in a theater. The right to bear arms does not give everybody the right to bear arms anywhere and everywhere,” said Cochran.

When you’re comparing carrying a lawfully owned firearm without the need for a license with human sacrifice, you’ve lost the script. Last time I checked, it was already legal to openly carry a firearm in Alabama without the need for a permit, and carrying concealed without a license is a misdemeanor offense. Why should carrying a gun in plain view be perfectly legal, while carrying that same gun while wearing a jacket be a crime?

And Cochrane’s statement about the not having the right to bear arms “anywhere and everywhere”? That’s straight from the state of New York’s argument in favor of denying most citizens the right to bear arms at all.

It’s an understatement to say that Cochrane’s position on the exercise of a fundamental right is disappointing. But Cochrane’s term as sheriff expires next year, and if he decides to run for a fifth term in 2022 hopefully his outspoken desire to keep criminalizing the right to bear arms will lead to a primary challenge and the installation of a sheriff that doesn’t just pay lip service to the Second Amendment. More importantly, it sounds like Rep. Stringer’s colleagues aren’t inclined to buy in to the sheriff’s argument, so even if Cochrane wins another term, he’s likely to lose his war on the right to carry.