MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday advanced legislation to end the requirement to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-4 for the legislation. The bill now moves to the full Alabama Senate. House Republicans have named the bill a priority for the year, but the committee approval came over the objections of law enforcement officials who spoke against it.
The legislation, sponsored by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa, would end the requirement to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun although people could still get one if they choose. Rep. Shane Stringer, a Republican from Citronelle, has filed similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
The proposal, as it has in past years, drew opposition from law enforcement officers during a public hearing Wednesday.
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told the committee that the bill would take away a valuable tool for law enforcement officers to remove stolen weapons from the streets and to solve and prevent crimes.
Edward Delmore, the chief of police for the Gulf Shores Police Department, said officers can now ask a person if they have a permit when they encounter a gun.
Delmore said Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was initially arrested for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit after a trooper noticed the gun during a traffic stop. “If you pass this, that arrest would not have happened in the same situation here,” he said.
Representatives from gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, urged lawmakers to advance the bill, arguing that 21 states allow concealed carry without a permit.
They argued Alabama already allows open carry— meaning that a person can legally carry a non-concealed handgun — and that it doesn’t make sense to require a permit if the person puts on a jacket or gets in a car.
“As an elected official who swore to uphold the constitutions of this state and country, I will always do everything in my power to preserve the rights of Alabamians, especially those granted by the Second Amendment,” Allen said in a statement, commenting on committee passage.
Democrats on the committee voted against the legislation.
“A life is a way more important than the inconvenience of somebody having to get a permit to carry a gun,” Democratic Sen. Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham, said.
The bill has been introduced for several years without success, but House Republicans have named the bill a priority for the year.