Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson said Alabama’s 67 sheriffs, the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, the Alabama District Attorney’s Association, the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police and the Business Council of Alabama are all opposed to Senate Bill 286, sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale.
Beason’s bill was approved by the Alabama Senate on Thursday in a 28-5 vote. If it becomes law, it will enable people to carry guns on property owned or controlled by others, such as grocery stores or churches — unless the property is considered a gun-free zone.
The bill also provides for free lifetime permits for Alabamians who wish to carry firearms in their cars, whether concealed or not.
It could also take away funding used by the sheriffs, by allowing permits to be renewed every five years and cost less than $50. Amerson estimated there are 8,000 people in Calhoun County with concealed carry permits. The sheriff’s office currently charges $20 to renew the permit each year. The money, Amerson said, is used to help buy cars, ammunition, computer software and to pay for training of deputies.
“There’s kind of an implication that the money goes to me,” Amerson said. “It doesn’t.”
Amerson said he feels the Legislature is sending conflicting messages after saying local governments need to generate their own sources of revenue and then attempting to remove one of those sources from the sheriffs.
Attempts on Monday to reach Beason were unsuccessful.
The bill being written by the sheriffs, with input from other organizations opposed to Beason’s bill, would allow pistol permits to be issued for a period of one to five years, but the fee will also be multiplied by the number of years applied to the permit.
Both Beason’s and the sheriffs’ bills note that sheriffs will provide written statements detailing the reasons for denying anyone a pistol permit. The bills state that applicants who are denied may appeal in district court. If the court finds the person should be given a permit, any court costs will be reimbursed and a permit issued.
Amerson said he met with Beason last week to discuss SB286, two days before the bill passed.
“We had good discussions, but the senator and law enforcement could not agree on the pistol-in-the-vehicle provision,” Amerson said.
Amerson said providing a lifetime permit for someone to carry a gun in their car will open the door for criminals. The sheriff said he already deals with wives of known criminals attempting to get pistol permits as a “legal cover” for their husband.
Amerson said if the bill passes there would be “no practical way to enforce restrictions on people.”
Amerson said he supports the right of honest citizens to protect themselves, but said that people forget there are already restrictions placed on the Second Amendment. Felons and people who are mentally impaired are not supposed to have guns, Amerson said, but the Second Amendment doesn’t say that.
“Those are restrictions that were passed on top of the Second Amendment,” Amerson said.
Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, said he’s supportive of the sheriffs’ bill. He’s also concerned with the section of Beason’s bill that allows firearms in public places.
“What does it mean to have a law that says it’s legal for you to carry a firearm on your hip, visible and walk around in Quintard Mall?” Brasfield asks.
The bill states a property owner can put up a sign designating the building as a gun-free area. If a person carrying a gun enters the building, the property owner must address the gun carrier in the presence of a law enforcement officer.
“We worked hard to get this language out and the sponsor wouldn’t budge,” Brasfield said.
He said it was “absurd” for a property owner to be required to wait for a police officer to arrive.
Brasfield said he’s also apprehensive about guns being allowed in vehicles, especially at work. He said he worries for employees who come in contact with the general public. Brasfield called more guns in cars “troubling” and said the bill was not considering what police deal with on a daily basis.
“Anyone who isn’t concerned about that has never tried to put themselves in the shoes of a law enforcement officer who has to walk up to a car on the dark side of the road,” Brasfield said.
Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.