Alabama currently bans possession of handguns by minors under the age of 18. No exceptions. That’s right, no exception for parental permission, training, or engaging in hunting or other shooting sports. Banned, plain and simple. Many states have similar laws, but they tend to make exceptions for parental supervision and the like. It’s funny that in the popular imagination, the states of the old Confederacy are seen as gun-owning paradises where there are few legal obstacles to owning and carrying a heater. The reality, while improving in recent years, is far different . . .
Members of the Alabama legislature appear to have woken up and decided that it’s time to rectify this nonsense. HB 328 and SB 262 would allow minors to receive or possess a pistol if the minor has the consent of a parent, guardian, or spouse over the age of 18. In addition, the following additional conditions would need to be satisfied:
(1) The minor is in the presence of his or her parent, guardian, or spouse who is 18 years of age or older, or in the presence of another person who is 18 years of age or older.
(2) The minor is on the premises owned or leased by the minor’s parent or other immediate family member, guardian, or on the premises with the consent of the lawful owner or possessor of the premises.
(3) The minor is in the presence of a licensed or accredited gun safety instructor.
(4) The pistol is being used for hunting, trapping, target shooting, competing in a firearm competition, or firearm or hunting training or instruction.
The bill also eliminates a provision of the code that requires “All persons dealing in pistols, revolvers, and maxim silencers” to “keep a permanent record of the sale” to be open for inspection of the police. Supporters of the bill have characterized these requirements as duplicative, as WAFF News reports:
Currently, the law requires that sellers make triplicates of the records, keeping one for six years, sending another to the chief of police or county sheriff and sending a third to the secretary of state.
[Russ] Durling [of Last Resort Guns], a veteran of the Royal Air Force, does not believe the bills currently making their way through the legislature are controversial.
“It brings regulatory requirements in line with common practice,” he said.
Of course, the usual people who oppose all common-sense gun laws can be found wringing their hands over what appears to be a fairly innocuous change. Cullman, Alabama police chief Kenny Culpepper expressed concerns over the law:
“I’m concerned with the bill and have questions,” Cullman police chief Kenny Culpepper said. “Specifically, the section that allows anyone over 18 years of age as a supervisor, without specifying that person’s qualifications or disqualification’s to be the adult overseeing this. I absolutely support the right of a parent or guardian to take a child hunting, or to teach them gun safety, but this just has some questions I’d really like to see answered first.”
Echoing Culpepper with more snark and less thought was Michael Luciano at The Daily Banter
It could be argued that children, in a legal sense, are of unsound mind, which is the reason the justice system distinguishes them as a group (i.e., “minors”) from the general population. Furthermore, it’s not clear if parental or custodial consent that is given would be legally valid if that parent or custodian has themselves “been convicted of a crime of violence or is a drug addict, an habitual drunkard, or of unsound mind.”
This is actually not an idle question. Based purely on the text of the bill (and not taking into account anything else), it appears to me that a parent who (for instance) was disqualified from possessing a firearm would be able to consent to the possession of a handgun by a minor child who was not otherwise disqualified.
To which I add, what’s wrong with that? As I’ve written about earlier, given the myriad ways in which a person can be barred from owning a firearm for life, this is potentially a huge number of people, who were disqualified for reasons having nothing to do with violent crime. There is a large population of illegal aliens in the country, some of whom have children who are American citizens. Should these minor citizens lose the protection of the law when learning about firearms simply because their father is in the country illegally?
DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece, and is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice on this subject, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel.