MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A legislative committee on Tuesday narrowly defeated legislation that would abolish Alabama’s requirement to obtain a state permit to carry a concealed handgun in public.
The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee voted down the proposal by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa. A motion to advance the bill to the Alabama Senate floor failed on a 6-5 vote.
The legislation is backed by gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association.
Allen said he was “totally surprised” by the defeat after he requested the bill be moved to that committee. Allen, who has unsuccessfully pushed the bill for several years, said he will keep trying on the proposal.
“The Second Amendment is too important for us to turn our backs on it and that’s exactly what took place in committee,” Allen said. “We’re not folding the tents up. We’re not going to go away.”
The proposal has come under opposition from state sheriffs who argued the permits are a tool for law enforcement officers to apprehend criminals, stop crimes and protect communities.
Sheriffs from across the state packed an earlier public hearing on the bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee and urged lawmakers to reject the bill. Members of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America also opposed the bill known as Senate Bill 4.
In arguing for the bill, Allen said citizens shouldn’t have to pay a fee to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. He predicted many law-abiding people would voluntarily get the permits for traveling across state lines and other reasons.
Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton, who voted against the bill, said he worried about taking away a law enforcement officer’s ability to question a would-be criminal about a gun.
“I’m not really worried about all of those law abiding people … I’m worried about that guy who doesn’t do the right thing,” Singleton said.
Allen said he requested the bill be moved to the Senate Tourism Committee because he was worried it had stalled in the Judiciary Committee.
According to the NRA, 16 states have approved some version of permitless carry, sometimes dubbed “constitutional carry” by supporters.