Guest Opinion: Carrying without a license would begin to dismantle Alabama’s culture of responsible gun ownership
This is a guest opinion column
More than 6,000. That’s the number of people who were barred from getting firearms licenses in Alabama last year because background checks revealed the applicant had a criminal history or suffered from unstable mental health. Proposed legislation (HB 272) is making its way through the Alabama Legislature to allow these 6,000+ people to wander into our unfamiliar communities. If enacted, carrying without a license would allow anyone to conceal a weapon in public without obtaining a government-issued permit. This would allow people with dangerous backgrounds to evade background check requirements and safeguards for responsible gun ownership.
Last Wednesday, the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee ignored those 6,000 reasons and narrowly approved HB 272 to be presented to the House for debate, which could take place as early as this Tuesday. .
I served in the Marine Corps. I fired everything from an M16 to an M2 .50 caliber machine gun and a SMAW rocket launcher. I believe that firearms are important tools, that they can provide protection and play an important role in our recreational and cultural activities. I believe in the constitutional right to own a firearm and to exercise that right myself responsibly. Learning to handle a gun responsibly is often not a rite of passage for many young Alabamians. My first gun was given to me when I was 12. I know this culture. I respect him. I’m part of.
We pride ourselves on being a responsible gun ownership state, but carrying without a license is beginning to dismantle Alabama‘s culture of responsible gun ownership. The government issuing concealed carry permits is one of the few safety nets we have to ensure the responsible use of firearms. HB 272 would take away a vital tool for law enforcement. One that works: to protect survivors of domestic violence, prevent people with mental illness from having access to a deadlier way to harm themselves or others, and ensure that someone carrying a firearm fire in public is not a criminal with a dangerous history.
Take it from the town of Opelika, where the police chief and sheriff have voiced their opposition to unlicensed transport. Opelika Police Chief Shane Healey said: ‘In 2021 OPD made 78 cases for carrying a weapon without a valid licence. In the past five years, there have been 333 cases; over the past ten years, 445 cases. In over 60% of those cases it led to further charges such as assault, possession of stolen property, drug related crimes, a plethora of things.
If you don’t think these crimes are serious enough to be grateful that a gun charge revealed a criminal history, remember that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was originally arrested for a gun. fire. Gun laws can get murderers and terrorists off the streets. These laws help protect girlfriends and wives from the most extreme forms of domestic violence, and they prevent people with a history of mental illness from shooting themselves or others.
Opelika is not alone in its opposition. The Alabama Sheriffs Association has expressed opposition to unlicensed transportation legislation that would make their jobs more difficult and far more dangerous. Following a series of shootings in Mobile in October, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said, “It’s a prelude to what’s to come if our state legislature removes the law that compels people to have a gun license to carry their gun in an automobile or conceal on their person.”
Birmingham has now suffered its 11th homicide of 2022, which happened in my district. My city has endured years of horrific killings. In an average year, 1,054 people die from firearms in Alabama. Alabama has the second highest rate of gun death in the United States. The people of Birmingham and those across the state need to know that their government is doing everything it can to save the lives of their children. The State of Alabama will let them down if it passes this bill. We need laws that will make our communities safer – not laws that satisfy the ideological agenda of lobbyists. We cannot afford to make our gun laws weaker than they already are.
Alabama’s permit system is effective when done legally. Without requiring too much time or money, it ensures that those who carry guns in public receive gun safety training and have passed a background check. We have made obtaining a firearms license the easiest form of obtaining a government license. Unlike standing in line to vote, filling out an absentee ballot, or even renewing your car registration, you rarely hear people say that the process of getting a firearms license is too much. cumbersome, time-consuming or redundant.
Some would argue that a permit is a violation of the Second Amendment. But even one of the most conservative, traditionalist, and literal interpreters of the Constitution to ever serve on the United States Supreme Court disagreed. I’m talking about the late Judge Antonin Scalia, who wrote unequivocally that “The right of the people to keep and bear arms is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons” in the case District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008).
The opposition against this bill brings together people from both sides of the aisle, from urban and rural communities, even law enforcement and activists. As this bill is introduced, starting this week, I urge my colleagues to consider all of their communities, come together, do the right thing, and vote “no” on HB 272. Stopping this bill will save lives.
Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham) represents District 54 in the Alabama House of Representatives. Learn more by following him on social media @RepRafferty or by going to www.reprafferty.com.