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Bill limiting firearms on school grounds set to be reheard in committee

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill that would limit the carrying of firearms on school grounds is set for a vote in the House Judiciary Committee next week.

Under current Alabama law, individuals are prohibited from carrying firearms on school grounds with three exceptions; law enforcement officers, school resource officers, and those with pistol permits who don’t have “intent to do bodily harm.” Individuals outside of those exemptions who carry a firearm on school grounds are guilty of a Class C felony.

Sponsored by Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, House Bill 28 would eliminate the exception for those with pistol permits and remove the language about intent, limiting those legally allowed to carry firearms on school grounds to law enforcement officers and SROs.

England’s bill was first heard last week in the committee and members expressed a number of concerns.

Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Citronelle, asked England how his bill would affect parents who regularly carry firearms while picking up their children from school or attend school sporting events. England explained that current law still allows for parents in vehicles to carry firearms, granted the firearms are unloaded and “out of reach of the driver and any passenger in the motor vehicle.”

Rep. David Standridge, R-Hayden, shared Stringer’s concerns, asking England what the purpose of his bill was given the fact that schools generally have policies restricting firearms already in place. England argued that relying solely on school policy for restricting firearms on school grounds comes with significant handicaps for law enforcement.

“If someone carries a pistol or a firearm on school grounds, it’s technically not illegal, so if you approach someone with a firearm on school grounds, you can’t take the pistol, you can’t do anything to subdue them, what you’d have to do is get them trespassed and send them off,” England said. 

“When you get a permit, as long as you don’t have any intent to do bodily harm, you can carry on campus. For me, schools need to be treated like courthouses, because you can’t have a concealed pistol on courthouse grounds. It has never made sense to me that we identify particular locations where we don’t want you to be able to carry concealed at all, but where our kids are, it’s okay.”

Another concern expressed by committee members was the expansiveness of some properties owned by school districts across the state, which in some cases are used by residents as shortcuts or hunting grounds.

“The notion of keeping our kids safe is something that’s a very real topic in our world today, so it’s a tough and complex topic to dig into as far as trying to balance out that element of safety for our children and also the Second Amendment rights of our citizens,” said Rep. Russell Bedsole, R-Alabaster.

“Knowing that every school campus is set up a little bit differently, I have a couple in my immediate area that come to mind that something like this would give me a little bit of pause.”

While committee members expressed reservations regarding England’s bill, some in the education sector endorsed it.

“School Superintendents of Alabama believes that only law enforcement officers and SROs should be allowed to have firearms on school property,” wrote Ryan Hollingsworth, SSA executive director, in a statement to ADN.

“It is important to make our public school campuses as safe as possible and for parents and students to feel safe while there, which is why we requested $100 million for school safety grants in the FY2024 ETF budget.”

The bill was sent to a subcommittee for further work and changes are expected prior to next week’s meeting and vote.

England is not the only lawmaker targeting school safety as it relates to firearms. Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, introduced a bill that would impose criminal charges for a parent who doesn’t secure their firearms and their child brings that gun on school grounds. Under House Bill 123, parents or guardians convicted of violating the proposed law would be guilty of a Class C felony. The bill has been assigned to the judiciary committee.



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