Sheriff, chief oppose gun bill

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pistols worn on the hips of those other than law enforcement might soon become a much more common sight.

The Alabama Senate passed Senate Bill 286 with a vote of 27-5 last week, which would grant citizens lifetime permits to carry pistols in their vehicles. The bill also aims to make several revisions to existing state gun laws.

One of the larger revisions would allow gun owners to carry a firearm without a permit, as long as it is not concealed.

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As the main proponent and sponsor of Senate Bill 286, Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said that the bill is a means of preserving the right to bear arms at a state level, and an attempt to provide law-abiding citizens a way to defend themselves and their families.

But the bill has left certain law enforcement officials wondering what needed to be adjusted in the first place.

Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram said that there’s nothing wrong with the way things are handled now in the state as far as weapons are concerned.

“The last thing we need is people walking the streets with pistols strapped to their sides,” Ingram said.

“We just don’t need that.  There’s something in place that if a person wants to carry a weapon, he can go see the sheriff and, for a very nominal fee, can get a pistol permit.”

Ingram is not alone in his skepticism.  Senate Bill 286 faces opposition from all 67 sheriffs in Alabama, including Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden.

Harden said that the decision made by the senators responsible for the bill’s passing did not factor either public safety or the safety of law enforcement into consideration.

“There’s nothing wrong with the laws we have in place now, and there’s no one trying to take guns away from anybody,” Harden said.

“If’ it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

What bothers Harden most of all is the potential fallout for removing ownership limitations from would-be gun owners, particularly the younger population.

“My concern is that if they do get this bill passed, whenever you have teenagers that get together on Friday and Saturday nights and a fight breaks out, what is the first thing they’re going to do if they have a gun at their sides?” Harden asked.

“Right now, they know they can’t buy a gun until they’re 21 years old, but yet when this law passes they’ll be able to carry that gun at 18.”

The bill now heads to the Alabama House for approval, where Ingram thinks that the legislation has an uphill battle.

“When law enforcement is against the bill, and you’ve got the Business Council of Alabama opposing the bill, that should tell you that it’s just not a good bill,” Ingram said.

“Hopefully, we’ll have some cooler heads and more reasonable people in the House to deal with.”