Alabama Legislature update: Guns dominate the debate in Montgomery
Editor’s note: This is a round-up of the day’s major events in Montgomery.
Guns dominated Montgomery’s politics on Thursday, both because of circumstances — Wednesday’s mass school shooting in Florida — and coincidence — a previously scheduled vote in the Legislature.
Here is a look at what lawmakers in the state capital did as they closed out another work week of the session:
The big story: The state House of Representatives passed legislation that would extend the 2006 Stand Your Ground law specifically to churches and other places of worship, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
The House passed the bill on a 40-16 vote during a long session that lasted more than 12 hours and stretched late into the night.
Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville), a person can claim a defense from prosecution if he uses physical force against anyone committing or attempting a crime, attacking an employee, volunteer or member of church inside the house of worship.
“If you have someone coming into a church with a gun that starts shooting folks, you want to have someone that’s going to shoot back,” Greer said during the debate, according to the Advertiser.
Opponents cast the bill as unnecessary. State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) called it “pandering” since the current law already protects people in churches.
“We can be as irresponsible and reckless in the message we send, even when 17 people were killed in a school not too far from us,” he said, according to the paper.
Responding to Parkland: The shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, provoked ideas from Alabama legislators about how to prevent a similar tragedy in the Heart of Dixie.
One idea, offered by state Rep. and lieutenant governor candidate Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville) is to let teachers carrying guns in school — after completing a required training course.
Ainsworth told Yellowhammer Thursday he intends to draft legislation.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) would not got so far as to endorse Ainsworth’s idea, but he said at a news conference that he was urging lawmakers to “put their thinking caps on,” according to AL.com.
McCutcheon said it was too early to make a decision about Ainsworth’s proposal.
“At this point, we’re opening the door to our legislators to be creative, put their thinking caps on,” he said, according to the website. “Look at their individual school districts because they’re all a little different. Let’s see what kind of ideas come out so we can look at them.”
AL.com also reported that McCutcheon deflected a reporter’s question about whether the state should raise the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle like the AR-15 that accused Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz, 18, used to gun down his victims.
“At this point, I think we need to continue to look at the federal regulations because that will actually dictate to the states exactly the sale of weapons and firearms as to what direction we can go in,” he said. “I would encourage the discussions of those things.”
Appreciating the military: Alabama Gov. Key Ivey designated Thursday “Military Appreciation Day,” and the Senate passed five bills intended to support veterans.
The centerpiece is a bill sponsored by Rep. Dickie Drake. (R-Leeds), the Parks and Patriots Act, which would give veterans in Alabama free admission to all state parks for life. Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) praised the bill.
“More than 50,000 Alabamians serve in the military or work as employees of the Department of Defense, and it is appropriate and right that we honor their heroism and service,” Reed said in a statement. “Veterans from Alabama have fought honorably in numerous wars, defending this nation from Nazi fascists and now, radical Islamic terrorists.”
More than 25,000 soldiers and airmen in the Alabama National Guard have been deployed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Currently, about 1,000 are serving on active duty.
Thursday was the 12th day of the legislative session, which means lawmakers now are more than a third of the way through.
Tweet of the Day:
— Connie Cooner Rowe (@reprowe13) February 16, 2018
Updated at 7:16 p.m. on Feb. 16 to correct the sponsor of the Parks and Patriots Act.