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Alabama lawmaker, law enforcement at odds over gun bill

Alabama lawmakers are considering making it legal to carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle without a concealed carry permit.

If approved, the bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), would change the state law, which now mandates that a handgun must be unloaded and locked away out of reach of the driver and passengers unless the owner has a permit.

Lawmakers have declined to pass similar bills in the last several years.

Such bills have been widely opposed by state law enforcement officers.

Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden has called such bills “dangerous.”

“It’s not a bill that makes things safer for the citizens of Alabama,” Harden said. “For example, if you accidently cut someone off in traffic, the way things are now, they may give you a hand gesture. If this bill passes, what’s to say this person won’t grab a pistol off the seat and shoot you?”

Harden said he feels a change to the current law is unnecessary.

“People who can pass the background check can get a permit and carry the weapon in their car,” he said. “Those who can’t (pass the background check) don’t need to have a concealed weapon, and a weapon in a car is a concealed weapon. This is a law that benefits criminals, not law abiding citizens.”

A permit is required to carry a concealed weapon in Alabama, but state law also allows residents to carry a weapon without a permit as long as the weapon is not concealed.

In the past lawmakers have argued that if someone can walk down the street with a loaded weapon, they should be able to transport one in his vehicle.

Harden disagrees since in essence the weapon will be concealed by the vehicle.

“It’s something that will put people in danger,” he said.

During a public hearing last week, Allen said “if you are for this bill, you support the Second Amendment. If you are not for this bill you are for gun control.”