Now that Constitutional Carry legislation has cleared the Alabama House of Representatives and could soon be taken up by the state Senate, opponents of the measure are getting a little more shrill and desperate in their attempts to derail the legislation.
The latest argument? If you support Constitutional Carry, you’re actually in favor of defunding the police.
“I do find it ironic that the Republicans ram through a bill that literally defunds the police,” said Wade Perry, executive director with the Alabama Democratic Party. “The law enforcement officers, by and large, are opposed to it. This bill makes it tougher on them financially. It has a public safety impact and impacts their safety to do an already tough job.”
Alabama GOP Chairman John Wahl said the Democratic Party is “spreading misinformation” about the party’s stance. He said the GOP remains “very supportive of our state’s law enforcement,” while also backing “people’s constitutional rights” to own and possess a gun without having to pay a permit fee.
“It is the Democratic Party who has been calling to defund the police, and it seems a bit hypocritical for them to change their tune now.”
But in Alabama, where the GOP enjoys supermajority dominance in the Legislature, some Republican lawmakers and sheriffs are equating the permitless carry push to a reduction in budgeting for law enforcement.
The Alabama House adopted a bill last week that does not spell out how to supplement the loss revenues for the sheriff’s agencies. The legislative fiscal note attached to the bill, HB272, says it would reduce permit revenues to the counties and that the amount was “undetermined.”
In Tennessee, where permitless carry was approved last year, the estimated revenue loss is $20 million.
“The irony is not lost, I can assure you,” said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones, a Republican who has been in law enforcement for 47 years. “If you consider anything that removes funds from law enforcement would be defunding law enforcement, then technically it applies in this situation.”
Umm, no. First off, the reason for the Constitutional Carry legislation isn’t to decrease the amount of funding for county sheriffs, but to improve access to the right to keep and bear arms by removing any government-mandated fees applied to the exercise of a constitutionally-protected right. The sheriffs themselves have no idea how much, if any, money they stand to lose from a reduction in carry applications and the associated fees they collect from applicants, but they assume that there will be less money coming in from gun owners.
Let’s say they’re right. Does that still amount to Constitutional Carry being a “defund the police” measure? Again, no. The sheriffs’ budgets can be supplemented through the general fund in each county, and frankly, I’d argue that’s where their funds should be coming from, because it’s a mistake for sheriffs’ departments to make money off of concealed carry applications in the first place. Why should gun owners be singled out to pay extra for the public safety of all, and why should anyone have to pay the government a fee or a tax before they can exercise a civil right?
Just because a law might have a financial impact on some law enforcement agencies (the vast majority of police departments in Alabama do not receive any funding through concealed carry licenses, only county sheriffs) doesn’t make a bill a “defund the police” measure. In fact, last year the Alabama legislature approved a lifetime concealed carry license that may also result in less money coming in to some county sheriffs, but not even opponents called it a “defund the police” measure at the time.
Of course, opponents also weren’t nearly as bothered by that bill as they are Constitutional Carry, which is why the rhetoric coming from gun control activists and even some sheriffs has become so unhinged. How much of an impact this argument will have on Alabama state senators remains to be seen, but I don’t think Constitutional Carry is assured of passage at the moment, and Alabama gun owners need to continue to contact lawmakers in support if the bill is going to land on the governor’s desk before this year’s legislative session expires.