TAKING ACTION: Confusion Over Alabama’s Sweeping Gun Rights Bill

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A sweeping gun rights bill passed by the Alabama Legislature this past session means big changes for how firearms are regulated in our state.

The changes are not without their critics, and there are other people who are confused by what the changes mean for their rights to carry guns. WHNT News 19 viewers sent several emails asking us for clarification on what the changes mean for their rights.

Email from viewer:

” With the new Alabama gun legislation being signed into law by the Gov.  What does this mean?  I have always been pro open carry, but does this now mean we are allowed to open carry in Alabama.  How will local police and Deputies respond to a person carrying a fire arm openly?  Any chance you can find out their views on this new law.  I’d like to know for myself ” — Brian

Senate Bill 286 includes a number of provisions that will loosen regulations on firearms in Alabama.

One measure allows gun owners who do not have a concealed-carry permit to keep their weapons inside their vehicles. The bill will also allow Alabama residents to bring their guns onto their workplace property as long as the firearm stays hidden in their vehicle. 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.

As we first reported last year earlier formats of this bill were tossed out after law men from throughout the state spoke out against the changes. Following several changes to the bill law enforcement authorities put their support behind the updated bill.

North Alabama State Representative Mac McCutcheon was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2006. He joined the majority of his colleagues in voting in favor of the changes to the gun rights bill.

“This is a big step towards making sure gun owners second amendment rights are being protected, and this clears up some confusion about our original gun bill,” McCutcheon said.

The new gun bill will go into effect on the first day in August, according to law makers (three months after the Governor signed the bill).

Senate Bill 286

  • Allows those who possess a valid Alabama pistol permit to keep firearms stored in their vehicle while at work, as well as allowing those who possess a valid Alabama hunting license to store an unloaded rifle or shotgun used in their vehicle while at work.
  • Allows transportation of a handgun in a vehicle without an Alabama pistol permit as long as the handgun is unloaded, locked in a container and out of reach of the driver or passenger.
  • Shifts the current “May Issue” concealed carry permit system to a “Shall Issue” permit system and requires that a sheriff must issue or deny the carry permit within thirty days.  Should someone be denied a permit, a written denial must be provided and that applicant would have an opportunity to appeal the denial.
  • A permit to carry a concealed pistol shall be good for one to five years (to be decided by the applicant seeking the carry permit).
  • Requires sheriffs to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to conduct a background check on concealed pistol permit applicants.
  • Allows for all other valid state-issued permits to carry a concealed firearm to be recognized in Alabama.
  • Strengthens Alabama’s firearms preemption statue by reserving for the state legislature complete control over regulation and policy relating to firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories in order to ensure that such regulation is applied uniformly throughout the state.
  • Extends the current Castle Doctrine to include places of business to ensure the right of self-defense does not end when you enter your business.

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

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