HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Sheriff’s offices in North Alabama have reported losing a major source of revenue after the state’s new “constitutional carry” law went into effect on January 1.
That new law means Alabamians are no longer required to buy a permit from their local sheriff’s office for legal concealed carry. While the law has funding included in it to help sheriff’s offices recoup their losses, they say it is not enough. With inconsistent sales, they have no idea what to expect in revenue this year.
News 19 spoke with several local sheriff’s offices who say there was a decline in permit sales last year before the new law took effect — some agencies lost more than 30 percent of their licensing fees.
“It is affecting what we are able to do operationally speaking,” said Morgan County Sheriff Ron Puckett.
Out of the five counties to provide figures, all of them say they lost revenue from permit sales when 2022’s figures are compared to 2020.
The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office say they lost around $87,000. Madison County reported more than $647,000 in lost revenue, while Morgan County lost more than a quarter million, Lauderdale County lost about $105,000, and Franklin County lost around $38,000.
That’s roughly over $1 million in lost revenue.
The new law only includes a $5 million grant program to cover the whole state. However, to receive a grant, sheriffs must show a loss in revenue from permit fees with only 2022 as the base year.
Sheriffs told News 19 that doesn’t reflect their historic sales.
“It started affecting us last year and ’22, because the number of pistol permits being sold fell about 30 percent last year, so we were already feeling the crunch,” Puckett continued.
The money received from that licensing covers key operational expenses like equipment, vehicles, and training.
“We use the money for almost all of our operations from training to uniforms to equipment to vehicles to SROs [school resource officers],” he continued. “Almost every aspect of the operation of the sheriff’s office was [paid for by] the pistol permit.”
The Alabama Association of County Commissions (AACC) says the loss in funding makes things significantly tougher for small counties.
“Counties don’t have the ability to raise revenue and so if we’re short of pistol permit revenue by 30 percent, either those functions get laid aside or not carried out or you have to take money from some other function of county government to cover,” said AACC Executive Director Sonny Brasfield. “Quite honestly, we don’t think either of those options are viable.”
It’s an impact carrying over into the new year as well.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office says it has sold about 700 fewer permits this month than it did this time last year.
Huntsville-area Rep. Rex Reynolds says the legislature didn’t take into account that people would stop buying permits so quickly.
“What we did not think about is that apparently after the 2022 session, many people misinterpreted the law and that it took place immediately,” Reynolds explained. “They [stopped] buying pistol permits.”
“Actually, the bill didn’t go into effect until January 1, 2023,” he continued. “So we’ve got to go back and address that because certainly that’s impacted law enforcement in Alabama. We don’t want to do that.”
In March, sheriff’s offices can begin applying for grant funds to make up the lost revenue.
The legislature also begins its session in March and spokespeople for sheriff’s offices and county commissions say they plan to ask the legislature to take another look at what year is being used to calculate — and reimburse permit sales.