By MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday voted 65-37 to allow Alabamians to carry concealed handguns without a permit.
House Bill 272, sponsored by Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Citronelle, does away with the requirement that gun owners obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun on their bodies, in their purses and in their vehicles.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
The permits would still be available through the county sheriffs’ offices for other purposes, such as carrying in restricted places and reciprocity across other states.
Stringer said that he was originally against the idea of permitless carry until the Legislature passed a bill last session requiring the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to create a database of all people forbidden from receiving permits. This database is set to go online Oct. 1, and House Bill 272, if it becomes law, will not go into effect until January 2023.
The issue was one that the House Republican Caucus listed as a priority for this legislative session, but it has received a lot of opposition in the past few weeks. Democrats argued that doing away with the permit requirement would lead to more gun crime.
“You need to be passing bills to get these illegal guns off the streets,” Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, told co-sponsor Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia.
Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Cullman, along with many other bill co-sponsors argued that “criminals don’t fool with permits.”
“The way to stop the bad guy is the good guy with the gun,” Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Cullman, added.
Many sheriffs and police chiefs also opposed the bill saying the permit system is an important safety mechanism for law enforcement. Democrats and a few Republicans echoed those arguments on the House floor.
“They protect us. Now we’ve got to stand up here and fight to protect them,” Rep. Louise Alexander, D-Bessemer said.
Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla called permits “another safety net for us to catch those people who should not have a firearm.”
“This piece of legislation is going to be detrimental to law enforcement, and it’s going to be detrimental to the community,” Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham said.
Stringer admitted that many sheriffs, including Mobile and Jefferson county’s sheriffs, are still opposed to the bill. But he argued the same measure has not led to an uptick in violence in other states.
“We haven’t seen a state that has passed (a permitless carry bill) try to repeal it,” Jones said.
Jones and Stringer said that the bill reflects discussions with sheriffs throughout the state.
Stringer, who has 30 years of law enforcement experience, said that the bill won’t change procedures much, since “whatever interaction you have, you assume that person is armed.”