Alabama’s history of respecting the civil rights of its residents has been spotty, to say the least. The Alabama Democratic Party, exemplified by members such as Sherrif “Bull” Connor and George Wallace, has a long and odious history of oppressing their own constituents to gain political power. That history is one that Alabama’s — indeed, all of America’s — politicians and citizenry need to consider whenever proposed legislation affects the civil rights of its inhabitants . . .
I mention this because the Alabama Senate recently passed Senate Bill 14, which would do a number of things including:
* Establishes that “the mere lawful carrying of a visible, holstered, or secured firearm in a public place, in and of itself, shall not be a violation of [the disorderly conduct law, Ala. Code § 13A-11-7].”
* Establishes that a person could carry a firearm without a license on “real property under his or her own control, including his or her own vehicle, in his or her own abode, in his or her own fixed place of business, on the real property of another with consent, or in a vehicle of another with consent.” The bill also clarifies that persons under 18 years of age could not possess a pistol in a vehicle. Right now, the law requires a permit for all individuals to carry a firearm in those circumstances.
* Eliminate the requirement that persons without a permit could only possess a pistol in a vehicle if unloaded, and “locked in a compartment or container that is in or affixed securely to the vehicle and out of reach of the driver and any passenger in the vehicle.”
In other words, the bill represents a tiny step toward Alabama’s firearms carry laws becoming more like the laws of Vermont, Arizona, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, and Wyoming. (No doubt you’ve seen the articles about blood running in the streets of Bennington from all the crime there since its “Constitutional Carry” law was enacted in…1791.)
Instead, Alabama’s politicians and Sheriffs appear to be emulating people like HuffPo’s Mike Weisser (Cf. “New Kansas Gun Law Isn’t Constitutional Carry, It’s Crazy Carry“). As WKRG.com reports:
A proposal to allow a loaded handgun in the car has overwhelmingly passed the Alabama Senate last week but, it may lack support in the State House.
Currently if a person is transporting a gun to the range, or anywhere else, it must be empty, otherwise a pistol license is required.
“We think that our gun laws are right where they need to be in the state of Alabama and they do not need to be changed or amended,” said Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran.
Senate Bill 14 is proposing to the change that, and law enforcement officials like Sheriff Cochran and Police Chief James Barber have come out against it.
“The more loaded guns you have in cars by maybe irresponsible people the more guns are going to be stolen out of Mobile burglaries and things like all,” added Cochran.
They fear it would bring more guns to public events, and potentially be involved in road rage incidents.
Sheriff Cochran from Mobile County – a member of the Republican Party – thinks that the right to possess a firearm should be limited because some people are “maybe irresponsible”. In fact, both Cochran and Mobile Police Chief Barber have a video on YouTube asking for people to oppose Senate Bill 14 because “allowing our teenagers to carry loaded guns in their cars is a dangerous idea….”
Not exactly a shining moment in Alabama law enforcement leadership history. Still, surely other politicians might be made of sterner stuff?
While the measure had a lot of support in the State Senate, that may not be the case in the House. Representative David Sessions, who is pro gun rights, told us it was not necessary.
“I think we’ve heard a lot from the Sheriff’s Association and different law enforcement that really do not favor this bill so it’d be really hard to support legislation,” said Sessions.
Sessions thinks due to ongoing budget crisis, the bill may not even have a chance to hit the floor this year.
Sessions is, of course, also a member of the Republican Party, from Mobile County. (Alabama gun owners: what is it with Mobile County Republicans?)
I suspect that the opposition from law enforcement comes more from the fact that police like having options to stop people, and prosecutors like having options to put people in jail. It’s something I’ve written about in the past. It isn’t because they’re inherently bad people; it’s just that people like it better when their jobs are easier. Zounds, I would never have bothered learning VBA if it hadn’t made parts of my job easier at the time.
The highest aim of a constitutional government, however, is not to make the lives of its security services easy. Alabama’s history is replete with examples of abuse of police authority against the citizenry. While this instance clearly doesn’t rise to the level of outright oppression between the Civil War and the 1960s, I’d say that Alabama’s political and law enforcement really ought to think twice before they gainsay efforts to strengthen and expand legal protections for civil liberties in their state.
DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.