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Crenshaw weighs in on pistol permits

By: Lacey Alexander

Crenshaw County officials are considering their options if a bill on pistol permits becomes law, which will depend on how the Alabama House of Representatives votes and whether Gov. Kay Ivey signs it.

On April 18, the Alabama Senate passed Senate Bill 24, which would allow the concealed carry of a pistol without a permit.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, passed 25-8, with all eight Democrats in the Senate voting against it. Crenshaw County’s senator, Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, voted yes.

“Crenshaw County, thank God, has not had a big problem with gun violence,” said Charlie Sankey Jr., Crenshaw County Commission chairman. “Not saying it won’t affect us — it’s just hard to tell.”

Sankey said the permit system is not foolproof, but does deter some people from breaking the law.

“Overall, what it would mean for the county, nobody knows,” Sankey said. “That remains to be seen. … All I can tell you is that when it comes down to something like this, it boils down to the individual.”

Sankey said that Crenshaw County law enforcement officers have communicated their concerns to legislators.

Michael Johnson, chief of the Luverne Police Department, said issues with guns have arisen in Luverne in the past.

“We have our share for this size of a community,” Johnson said. “I hope it doesn’t, but (the bill) could intensify things.”

Johnson said that permits serve multiple purposes.

“The pistol permits allow us, especially the sheriff’s office, to keep up with who has a permit and who has permission to keep a weapon in their vehicle,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said that a pistol permit allows permit carriers to legally possess their weapons in certain other states.

Johnson said there are pros and cons to the bill, and it is “kind of a catch-22,” but he hopes the bill does not pass.

If the bill passes, Johnson said, he hopes police officers will stay on their toes.

“Honestly, awareness will need to change a little bit,” Johnson said. “We stress the fact to our guys that being in a small community, things get lax sometimes, but that they have to exercise safety all of the time.”

Titus Averett, chief of the Brantley Police Department, said that gun crime in Brantley is not an issue.

“Here in Brantley, I haven’t had many problems with stuff like that,” Averett said. “I don’t think we’re going to have any problems with our citizens.”

Yet, Averett said he still opposes the bill.

“It puts us (law enforcement) in sort of a bad spot,” Averett said. “Anybody, basically, could get their hands on a weapon.”

Averett said he and many other officers voiced their opposition to the bill.

“We tried to say what we needed to say, and this time we fought and still lost,” Averett said.

Sankey said that he believes that the bill will also pass the House of Representatives.

“I think there’s enough money and enough influence behind it,” he said. “For it to have already made it as far as it has means that there’s a little bit more than the safety of citizens at stake.”

Crenshaw County Sheriff Mickey Powell declined to comment on the bill.

“The sheriff has stated in my presence that he feels like it will put guns in the hands of more criminals and possibly put people with businesses in public places at risk,” Sankey said. “I think you’ll end up with more people carrying guns than otherwise. If you’ve got one, you’re more likely to get into the position to use it.”

The Crenshaw County sheriff’s office currently sells permits for up to five years for $20 a year.

Lacey Alexander of Morris, Alabama, a Troy University journalism student, wrote this story as part of a project partly funded by the Alabama Press Association Journalism Foundation.