Halfway there: Alabama House approves Constitutional Carry bill

Halfway there: Alabama House approves Constitutional Carry bill
David Duprey

For months now, opponents of Constitutional Carry in Alabama have been making some pretty outrageous claims about the legislation; arguing that if the bill becomes law then there will be no way of stopping criminals from illegally carrying guns, that the push for permitless carry amounts to a “Defund the Police” measure because county sheriffs get some of their funding through the carry licensing fees, and that a Wild West mentality will take over the state once legal gun owners can lawfully carry concealed without the need for a government permission slip.

On Tuesday, the Alabama House resoundingly rejected those arguments and overwhelmingly approved the Constitutional Carry bill authored by Rep. Shane Stringer on a 65-37 vote.

Stringer, a former law enforcement officer, disputed arguments that the permits enhance public safety. “The fact of the matter is, criminals don’t obey laws. This $20 piece of plastic, a permit, is not going to stop an evil person from committing a crime or doing wrong and it will not protect our law enforcement from getting hurt or killed.”

Stringer is a former law enforcement officer because his former boss, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran, fired Stringer from his position as a captain in the sheriff’s department after he introduced a Constitutional Carry bill in 2021. Cochran has continued to be one of the most outspoken opponents of the bill this year, but thankfully his unfounded objections were largely ignored in the House.

Largely, but not entirely. Democrats were happy to repeat Cochran’s claims and add a few unhinged takes of their own during floor debate on the bill, and even a few Republicans ended up objecting to the measure.

Rep. Pebblin Warren, a Democrat who represents Tuskegee, said the change will encourage young people to “just go wild in the street with guns.”

“We’re opening the door to really encourage violence,” Warren said.

Warren, the wife of a former state sheriff, read a letter from Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham, who now heads the Alabama Sheriffs Association, opposing passage of the bill.

Republican Rep. Allen Farley, a retired assistant sheriff and the only Republican to vote against the bill in committee, said the permits are a tool “for us to catch those people who should not have a firearm.”

Farley said the permit fees help fund small sheriffs’ offices and that the arrests for permit violations have led to seizures of drugs and the solving of crimes.

“Why are we making the thin blue line in Alabama thinner?” Farley said.

It’s true that sheriffs’ departments across the state do rely on funds generated through licensing fees, but that’s no argument for keeping the status quo in place. First, law enforcement shouldn’t profit or be funded by taxing the exercise of a fundamental right, nor should legal gun owners be singled out to pay more than their fair share for the public safety of all.

As for the argument that arrests for permit violations have led to crimes being solved or drugs being seized, I’d point out that the Constitutional Carry bill doesn’t change the fact that only legal gun owners can lawfully carry a firearm, whether or not they have a permit. And the state is currently working on a database of prohibited persons that should be up and running by the time Constitutional Carry takes effect, so officers will still be able to easily check and see if someone is lawfully carrying, at least if they have cause to stop them.

21 states have managed to put Constitutional Carry into effect without issue, and I have faith that Alabama law makers and law enforcement are up to the job as well. However, the bill still needs to get through the state Senate, and passage isn’t guaranteed at this point. Still, we’re halfway there, and hopefully the strong support from gun owners and Second Amendment activists can secure a significant victory in the Senate in the near future.