After the Alabama State Senate approved a Constitutional Carry bill that originated in the state House last week, most folks figured the measure was going to have smooth sailing from here on out. After all, both chambers had now approved the legislation, though the state Senate did amend the House bill, which meant it needed to go back for a concurrence vote.
What are the odds that the House wouldn’t concur with the Senate changes, especially given that failing to do so could easily result in Constitutional Carry failing outright?
Well, according to one supporter in the state House, the odds are about 50-50.
The House passed the bill by Rep. Shane Stringer, a Republican from Mobile County, two weeks ago with support from most of the Republican majority. The Senate passed Stringer’s bill last week but changed it, partly in response to opposition from the Alabama Sheriffs Association, which wants to keep the permit requirement.
Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals, is urging the House to reject the Senate’s changes and send the bill to a conference committee to hash out the differences.
“I think it’s 50-50 odds whether or not this thing gets concurred,” Sorrell said Monday afternoon. “With each passing hour I’m more convinced the House is going to non-concur (with the Senate changes).”
And to be fair, I’m not convinced that the House should concur with at least one of the amendments tacked on to the permitless carry bill in the Senate; a provision that would require gun owners to let police temporarily take hold of someone’s firearm as long as the officer believes that there is “reasonable suspicion” that the gun owner is engaged in criminal conduct or that “the officer otherwise reasonably believes it is necessary for the protection of the officer, individual, or any other individual.”
Sorrell says he has big Fourth and Fifth Amendment concerns about that particular provision, but he also correctly points out that the change could increase the odds of an accident or negligent discharge.
The other change made by the Senate, on the other hand, seems far less objectionable.
Democrats cited the concerns of sheriffs and some others in law enforcement and said it would result in more gun-carrying and more disagreements erupting into gunfire. Democrats accused the Republican majority of trying to “defund the police” because sheriffs depend on the permit fees to help fund their operations.
The Senate added to Stringer’s bill a provision to set up a fund to help counties offset a loss in permit fees. Democrats said it was wrong to shift that cost from permit-holders to the General Fund, which supports other government services.
What’s really wrong is asking gun owners to pay more than their fair share for public safety for all. But if some lawmakers want to come up with a way to help ease the budgetary sting for sheriffs who may see a loss of funds because of a decline in carry applications, I don’t see that as a poison pill amendment.
There are only eleven working days left in this year’s legislative session, but that should still be enough time to send the bill to a conference committee where the differences can hopefully be ironed out. House Republicans could also decide to accept the bill as amended by the Senate, though based on Sorrell’s comments it’s unclear whether there’s enough support to make it happen.
A House vote could come as early as today, and hopefully by this time tomorrow we’ll have a much better idea of where permitless carry stands and what gun owners can do to get it across the finish line. At this point, the message gun owners should be sending their legislators is simple: failure is not an option, and we need as strong a bill as possible enacted into law this year instead of kicking the Constitutional Carry can down the road to next year’s session.