NEWS

Controversial permitless gun carry bill signed by Gov. Kay Ivey

Brian Lyman
Montgomery Advertiser

Gov. Kay Ivey Thursday signed a bill that would allow people in Alabama to carry concealed weapons without a permit, ending a years-long battle between gun rights and law enforcement groups. 

Ivey signed the bill hours after the Alabama House of Representatives approved a conference committee version of the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Citronelle, on a 70 to 29 vote. The Senate followed later in the afternoon, on a 24 to 6 vote. 

The legislation would abolish legal requirements for carrying concealed weapons in most places. Concealed carry permits would be required to carry weapons onto certain locations, and would be available for interstate travel. Current laws allowing private property owners to ban concealed weapons in their buildings would remain. 

Stringer's bill led to battles between gun rights groups and state law enforcement, particularly the Alabama Sheriffs Association. Stringer and other advocates insisted the permit system did not work and constituted an unconstitutional infringement on the rights to own weapons. 

"This is our constitutional right," said Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle. "Thank you for upholding our constitutional rights."

Attendees look over a pistol display at a National Rifle Association convention in this file photo. The Alabama Legislature Thursday gave final approval to a bill allowing permitless carry in the state of Alabama.

Law enforcement said the permits were a useful tool for detaining individuals without a permit who may have committed crimes, and for denying firearms to individuals who should not have them. The Sheriffs Association said they had denied 6,000 permits last year. 

More:Alabama permitless carry bill headed to conference committee

Related:Alabama Senate approves permitless carry bill. Here are the details.

Democrats said the legislation would be dangerous to public safety and for law enforcement officers. Alabama had the fifth-highest rate of gun deaths in the nation in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 23.6 deaths by firearms per 100,000 population. More people died by firearm in Alabama in 2020 than in the state of New York, which has four times Alabama's population. 

Supporters have argued a database expected to be available to law enforcement officers later this year would offset the loss of the permits. But Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, was skeptical. 

"If you think a database is going to make our officers safe when there's a guy out there with a pistol who doesn’t need a permit to carry that gun, I don’t understand the rationale," he said.

The bill was amended in the Senate to require people carrying weapons to declare that fact during a traffic stop. They would also be forbidden from touching the weapon. An officer who has "reasonable suspicion" that a driver is committing a crime or has a reasonable belief that the gun put the officer or individual in danger could take the weapon and run a background check.

The legislation also includes an initial $5 million allocation to offset revenue losses from permits. 

The bill goes into effect on Jan. 1. 

In the Montgomery delegation, Reps. Reed Ingram, R-Pike Road and Charlotte Meadows, R-Montgomery, voted for the conference committee report. Reps. Kenyatte Hassell, D-Montgomery; Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville; Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery; Penni McClammy, D-Montgomery and Chris Sells, R-Greenville, voted against it. 

In the Autauga and Elmore delegations, Reps. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville and Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka, voted for the bill. Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, was not listed as voting. 

In the Tuscaloosa delegation, Reps. Cynthia Almond, R-Tuscaloosa; Kyle South, R-Fayette; Rodney Sullivan, R-Northport and Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa voted for the bill. Reps. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa and A.J. McCampbell, D-Linden, voted against it. 

In the Etowah County delegation, Reps. Gil Isbell, R-Gadsden and Craig Lipscomb, R-Rainbow City voted for the bill. 

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or blyman@gannett.com.