MONTGOMERY — A state senator wants to repeal the state’s requirement that people buy permits to carry a concealed firearm.
“For you to have to pay a fee to fulfill your constitutional rights, that’s not right,” said Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa. He said his goal is to remove unnecessary burdens on law-abiding citizens who own and carry guns, since most criminals don’t bother applying for a permit.
He has pre-filed Senate Bill 24 for the legislative session that begins Feb. 7.
Allen previously sponsored legislation to allow handgun owners to carry their weapons in their vehicles without a concealed carry permit. It failed, in part because of objections from law enforcement.
Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin couldn’t comment last week specifically on Allen’s bill because she hadn’t seen it, but favors keeping the permits, particularly because of the background checks they require.
She said when deputies encounter a permit holder, that documentation is the first clue this is a law-abiding citizen and the concealed weapon hasn’t been used in a crime.
“If we don’t have that, the interactions are going to be a lot more elevated,” she said.
She said there have been numerous occasions when a stolen gun was found on someone who didn’t have a concealed carry permit.
“(The permit) helps us prevent and solve crimes,” she said. “That would be done away with (if the permits end.)”
About 10 states already allow concealed carry without a permit. Mississippi enacted permit-less carry legislation in 2016, as did West Virginia and Idaho. Missouri did, too, on Jan. 1.
“We already allow open carry without a permit, and there is no logical reason for continuing to require a permit for concealed carry,” Allen said.
Alabamians could still apply for a pistol permit in order to carry in states that have reciprocity agreements with Alabama.
Under Allen’s legislation, Alabama businesses would still have the right to post “gun-free zone” signs. Prohibitions would remain on concealed or open carry in most government buildings and at athletic events, according to a news release from the Senate.
Proponents of Allen’s bills have said sheriffs don’t want to lose the revenue from permit fees.
“I do think it is a fee issue,” Allen said.
Jeff Hopper, president of the Shoals Second Amendment Group, agrees. He hadn’t seen Allen’s bill, but said the group supports legislation that lessens burdens of gun ownership.
“As long as they’re not tacking on some other type of restriction, we support it,” Hopper said. “We don’t have to buy permits for our free speech. We don’t have to buy our right to vote. I don’t see why we should have to pay for our Second Amendment rights.”
Hopper said he thinks law enforcement should be better funded. But revenue shouldn’t come from gun owners.
“To me, it’s an unfair tax,” he said. “That’s taxing us who are taking care of our own security and safety.”
In Morgan County, a permit is $20 per year.
Franklin said the fee generates revenue for sheriff’s offices, but there are also associated expenses.
“It’s not going to shut the sheriff’s office down if we don’t sell pistol permits,” she said.
Allen said the National Rifle Association is “very much involved” in this legislation. He will be asking fellow GOP caucus members to support it and said he thinks he has a House sponsor lined up, but declined to name that person.