Constitutional Carry bill gets big boost in Alabama

(AP Photo/Tae-Gyun Kim)

The legislative fight over permitless carry in Alabama is going to be awfully contentious for a state dominated by the Republican party, thanks in large part to the objections by some in law enforcement, but the odds of passage appear to be pretty good this year after the state’s House GOP caucus included Constitutional Carry in its list of legislative priorities this week.

Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Citronnelle, introduced legislation to do away with the requirement to get a permit — which requires a person to undergo a background check — to carry a concealed handgun in public or a loaded handgun in their car.

“I am a firm believer that law-abiding citizens should not be punished and forced to get a permit to carry a firearm, when the criminal element is not,” Stringer said.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Montgomery for the last five years. State sheriffs and other law enforcement officials have opposed the bills, arguing that the permits provide a crucial tool to combat crime and enhance public safety.

“There are those who do not need to be carrying concealed weapons in our restaurants, clubs and sports bars,” Mobile County Sheriff Cochran told the Mobile County Commission last month, according to al.com. “The biggest thing is safety of our citizens and officers.”

We’ve covered Cochran’s objections in the past, and I’m sure the sheriff is going to have plenty to say about permitless carry in the months ahead. This is a guy so opposed to the idea that he actually fired Rep. Shane Stringer from his position within the sheriff’s department because of Stringer’s sponsorship of a permitless carry bill, so he’s not likely to change his tune simply because the party in charge of the state’s House of Representatives has signaled their support for the measure.

No, the sheriff’s going to stick to his off-key objections. Are there people carrying guns in Mobile County for the wrong reasons? Of course there are, and the current licensing system isn’t stopping them from doing so. Oh sure, if someone’s caught carrying a concealed firearm without a license they can always face misdemeanor charges, but if Sheriff Cochran truly believes that serves as a valuable deterrent to violent criminals then that’s just more evidence that he needs a new line of work.

As for Cochran’s specific problem with people carrying in restaurants, clubs, and sports bars; the last time I checked private businesses are free to declare their premises’ gun-free zones (though again, getting criminals to comply is another issue entirely).

I don’t think any supporter of Constitutional Carry believes it’s a magical piece of legislation that will end all crime or deter every violent criminal from engaging in a home invasion, carjacking, or random robbery. That’s not the intent of the bill. Instead, permitless carry is about decriminalizing the exercise of a constitutionally-protected right; ensuring that the people of Alabama can both keep and bear arms without their local or state government interposing themselves between private citizens and their civil rights.

Gun control groups and opponents of permitless carry, however, are desperate to craft a narrative that the measure is somehow anti-law enforcement and not simply pro-civil liberties.

“I don’t understand how these lawmakers can claim to support law enforcement in one breath, and then, in the next, push an extremist policy like permitless carry that law enforcement has clearly and vehemently spoken out against,” said Paula Wilson, a volunteer with the Alabama chapter of Moms Demand Action.

“If this bill passes, there’ll be more unvetted people carrying concealed, loaded handguns in public places with no training and no questions asked,” Wilson said.

If Wilson is confused about how lawmakers can claim to support police and permitless carry, then I’ll confess to being perplexed about her support for law enforcement when Moms Demand Action regularly complains that “police violence is gun violence“. Someone should also remind her that those “unvetted people” she’s complaining about are We the People, and no other right requires pre-clearance from the state before we can exercise it.

You can support police without supporting a police state, just as you can support law enforcement while working to get bad laws off the books. Decriminalizing the right to bear arms is the right thing for Alabama lawmakers to do here, no matter how loud the objections from sheriffs like Sam Cochran or anti-gun activists like Wilson might be.