Gun rights bill passes last hurdle in Alabama Legislature
by Tim Lockette
May 20, 2013 | 6918 views |  0 comments | 149 149 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTGOMERY — A broad gun-rights bill passed a vote in the Alabama House of Representatives today, clearing the final hurdle before it can go to Gov. Robert Bentley for a signature or a veto.

The House voted 73-28 to agree with changes to the bill already approved by the Senate. The bill, known as the "omnibus gun bill," would broaden individuals' rights to carry firearms in public in Alabama.

The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Ed Henry, R-Decatur, predicted the bill will be mimicked in states across the South in the next few years.

"For your right to bear arms, this is the trend that's coming,"

Proponents of the bill claim Alabama is already an "open carry" state where carrying an unconcealed weapon in public is legal. In practice, carrying a firearm in public can often lead to a citation for disorderly conduct. The omnibus gun bill would allow people to carry firearms openly on property not their own if the owner hasn't posted notice that guns are banned on the property. The bill includes some exceptions, among them a ban on guns at city council or county commission meetings and a ban on firearms at some sporting events.

The bill also would allow employees with concealed carry permits to bring guns to work in their cars, even if the employer bans the practice. That provision was one reason some of the state's business organizations opposed the bill.

Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, said the bill might discourage some foreign companies, such as Airbus, from coming to the state because their property rights might be infringed. Bracy also said common sense would keep most people from bringing their guns to work.

"I know that if I'm going to one of these places," Bracy said. "I'm going to leave my firearm at home."

Henry said the bill protects companies from lawsuits. Under current law, he said, a company could be sued for workplace violence if it has a gun ban that isn't enforced. The bill, he said, would not hold companies liable for injuries from guns in workers' cars.

"We're preventing a company's ability to abridge someone's constitutional right to carry arms," Henry said.

The gun bill, originally sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, was initially opposed by the state's sheriffs because it removed much of a sheriff's discretion to deny permits to carry concealed weapons. The current version of the bill pulls back on that wording, but still requires sheriffs to approve or deny a permit within 30 days and issue an explanation for rejection when a permit is rejected.

Calhoun County's delegation voted along party lines on the bill. Republicans Rep. Steve Hurst of Munford, Rep. K. L. Brown of Jacksonville and Rep. Randy Wood of Saks voted for the bill. Democratic Rep. Barbara Boyd of Anniston voted against it.

The bill heads to the governor's desk.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.
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