Local Lawmen Raise Concerns Over Sweeping Gun Rights Bill

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-A sweeping gun rights bill that was introduced to the Alabama Legislature this week could mean big changes for how firearms are regulated in our state. But some local lawmen are raising concerns over the new legislation.

Senate Bill 129 was formally introduced on Tuesday, and includes a number of provisions that would loosen regulations on firearms in Alabama.

One measure would allow gun owners who do not have a concealed-carry permit to keep their weapons inside their vehicles. It would also take away discretion from county sheriffs on gun permits by requiring them to issue permits to people who pass a legal background check, without taking other factors like mental health into account. Current legal wording says Alabama sheriffs "may" issue gun permits, but the legislation would change that to "shall".

Madison County Chief Deputy Chris Stephens said the Alabama Sheriff's Association is opposed to the bill as currently worded.

"We have multiple concerns with it," said Stephens, who echoed concerns raised by Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning. "I think the bill in the current format it's in is not something that the sheriffs in the state of Alabama are going to support...To have the ability to bring an individual in as law enforcement and try to make a determination on whether he deserves a greater amount of scrutiny, or whether he poses a greater threat to the community based on the fact that he doesn't appear to be stable, is something we'd like to have the ability to do without the Alabama Legislature dictating to us whether we can or we can't."

If passed, the bill would also allow Alabama residents to bring their guns onto their workplace property as long as the firearm stays hidden in their vehicle. A separate bill addressing the guns-to-workplace issue had already been filed before Senate Bill 129 was introduced. The new legislation also calls for fines to be levied on law enforcement officials who try to stop law-abiding citizens from open holster carry of their firearms.

State Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) is the chief sponsor of the sweeping gun rights bill. Senators Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) and Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville) are listed as co-sponsors.

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