13 INVESTIGATES: Gun Rights in Alabama - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Gun Rights in Alabama

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Videographer Jamey Bryan takes video of Patrick Gondek firing his weapon at a gun range. Gondek has more time to visit gun range after retiring from CSX. Videographer Jamey Bryan takes video of Patrick Gondek firing his weapon at a gun range. Gondek has more time to visit gun range after retiring from CSX.

Alabama is what one sheriff calls a hybrid state. A concealed carry permit is needed only for pistols to carry it on your person and in a vehicle.

"Right now the sheriffs may issue a permit basically to a suitable person if they haven't been convicted of a violent crime, if they're not a habitual drunkard, or drug addict," Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale explained.

Hale said you don't need a concealed permit if you just have your pistol with you at home, to transport it to and from your own business, and to a gun shop for repairs. It's just not needed.

"I would say we have elements to open carry, but, it's more community oriented around your business and around your home," Hale said.

And you don't need a permit for a rifle. In fact, unless your city law says something different, you can carry a rifle down the street and not be fined or charged with a crime.

But Sen. Scott Beason tweak Alabama's gun law.

"The goal is to codify what's already practiced in the state," Beason said. "We want to insure that people's 2nd amendment rights are upheld, and people understand what the law is and make it very, very clear."

Beason's bill, Senate Bill 286:

  • Would change Alabama from a "may issue" state - which gives sheriff offices the discretion to issue pistol permits to a "shall issue" state.
  • Would also give a sheriff 30 days to issue or deny a permit.
  • Create an appeals process if denied.
  • Allow for a weapon to be in a vehicle without a permit.
  • Prohibit an employer from firing an employee for having a weapon in a personal vehicle.

The ability to carry a weapon to and from work appeals to some gun enthusiasts.

"Someone who's trained and licensed, properly vetted, there's no reason they should not be able to carry their weapon to and from the workplace," Patrick Gondek said.

"You should be able to have it. I believe you should meet the requirements that the state puts out to carry a weapon, and, maybe check with your employer, to make sure aware you have a weapon," John Elton added.

But there are parts of Beason's bill that rub some the wrong way, like the Alabama Sheriff's Association. All of Alabama's 67 sheriffs oppose SB 286.

"And when I tell you that this is the most threatening bill to public safety I've ever seen, I mean it," Sheriff Hale said.

Their main problem with the bill is changing the wording from "may issue" to "shall issue," potentially putting pistols in what Hale calls, "the hands of hot-headed teens."

Sheriff Hale said, "Under Sen. Beason's bill, 'shall issue' will go to an 18-year-old."

Hale is thinking about teens who like to go "cruisin'" on weekends, driving their cars up and down popular local hangouts.

"So now under Senator Beason's bill, we're going to have an 18-year-old who doesn't need a, he is stricken in the provision, that you don't need a concealed carry permit to carry it in a vehicle, just on your person. He's applying open carry to a car. Do we really want cars in parking lots with 18-year-olds that are out cruisin' on the weekend? The answer's no."

Beason said the gist of his bill is for sheriffs to not, in his words, "willynilly" deny someone a permit.

In our investigation we discovered sheriff offices keep their own permit stats. We called several of them to see how many permits were issued and denied in our area.

Of those who returned our calls, during 2012, these sheriff offices issued concealed carry permits:

  • Jefferson County - 52,537
  • Etowah County - 10,732
  • Walker County – 7,373

But only a couple had a denial list. Jefferson County had 229 denials for 2012. Etowah County estimates it had 1 percent in denials last year.

It's likely Beason's bill would force law enforcement to keep better records, because it would require - in writing - why someone was denied.

After working on this for several years, Beason believes his bill protects the rights of Alabamians.

"And my feeling is always, good, honest law abiding citizens need to be able to defend themselves. There's nothing we can do about people who are unable, who are out to commit a crime and hurt others," Beason said.

But the Alabama Sheriff's Association is concerned about those who may get a gun without getting a permit if Beason's bill passes.

While SB 286 has made it out of committee, it has yet to come up for a vote in the state legislature in either the Senate or the House. The Sheriff's Association continues to lobby against the bill with lawmakers and the governor.

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