Constitutional Carry clears first hurdle in Alabama statehouse

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Despite the opposition from some sheriffs, police chiefs, and gun control activists in the state, a Constitutional Carry bill passed out of a key Senate committee on Wednesday along mostly party-line votes.

The 6-4 vote sends the legislation to the Senate floor, while a companion measure has been introduced in the House but has not yet passed out of committee.

While we’ve already seen some pretty ridiculous arguments against Constitutional Carry coming from some of the state’s sheriffs, as Constitutional Carry starts to move the rhetoric is growing more unhinged.

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.”

I find it very interesting that, in order for Chief Delmore to come up with a scenario in which arresting someone for carrying without a license led to the capture of a major criminal, he had to go back to 1995 and a state that isn’t Alabama (it’s also worth noting that Oklahoma lawmakers approved their own Constitutional Carry law in 2019).

In doing so, the chief completely ignores a far more common scenario involving traffic stops and people arrested for not having a carry license: arrests, convictions, and prison time for the “crime” of bearing arms without a government permission slip. Just a few weeks ago public defenders in Wayne County, Michigan called on prosecutors to quit charging CCW only cases and released a few eye-popping statistics about what’s taking place.

The majority of people, 70%, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon — a five-year felony — legally owned their guns and were instead accused of improperly storing their guns while driving. Michigan is an open-carry state, but the definition of what constitutes “open” is often misunderstood.

Additionally, about 1/3rd of felony cases in the Wayne County prosecutor’s office are now CCW-only cases, and about 97% of those charged are black.

Sure, maybe once in 25 years police can catch a Timothy McVeigh after he’s murdered 168 people because he had a gun and no permit. In the meantime, we’re talking about tens of thousands of people all around the country who’ve been sent to prison and saddled with felony records just for carrying a gun without a license. Maybe that balances out for Chief Delmore, but not for me.

The next stop for the Constitutional Carry bill is the Alabama Senate floor, where similar legislation was approved last year. The insurmountable hurdle for 2021’s version was the state House, and while sponsor Shane Stringer has expressed confidence that the votes are there for passage, so far the bill has yet to receive its first committee hearing. If Second Amendment activists in Alabama want to see their state join the ranks of the 21 other states to adopt Constitutional Carry, now’s the time to speak up.