MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Lawmakers in Montgomery held a public hearing Wednesday to get feedback on a bill that would eliminate the need for concealed carry permits in Alabama. Law enforcement representatives from across the state filled the room, most of them in opposition to the bill.
“As a member of the Birmingham Police department, we’re in opposition of this bill. It’s bad for law enforcement,” said Deputy Chief Allen Hatcher of the Birmingham Police Department.
Many law enforcement representatives spoke out against House Bill 414. If the bill passes the House, it would allow citizens to carry a concealed handgun without having to purchase a pistol permit.
Opponents say it takes away a tool that law enforcement officers use to prevent crime.
“We think it’s a safety issue, not only for our law enforcement officers across the state but also for the public in general. To enact this bill takes away a vital tool to law enforcement that we use on a regular basis, almost daily, that we get guns off the street and prevent crimes that we may never know about,” said Chief Ted Cook, with the Mountain Brook Police Department. Cook is also the Vice President of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police.
However, Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale supports the bill.
“Now I see law enforcement sitting around and these are the people who are against it. Why are you for this bill? Personally?” asked Representative Thomas Jackson, D-Baldwin County. Jackson is also the ranking minority member in the Alabama House of Representatives.
“I’m for it…” Sheriff Hale began.
“Why are you for it?” interrupted Jackson
“I’m for it Mr. Representative because I believe in the second amendment,” said Hale.
Hale says the pistol permit is an unnecessary burden on law abiding citizens and that criminals will carry guns regardless of the law.
“I just think its simple” Sheriff Hale explained after the hearing. “I believe in training, but it doesn’t call for that in the Constitution. It doesn’t call for a fee. It’s not right to pay for a constitutional right and that’s the way I feel about it.”\
Even if the bill passes, pistol permits would continue to be available in some counties — Hale said some Sheriffs have told him they will no longer offer pistol permits — but they’d be voluntary. Having one speeds up the gun purchasing process and Alabama permits are recognized by some other states.
The committee did not vote on the bill Wednesday, but if it gets a favorable report when they do vote, it will go the the full House of Representatives for consideration.