One of the most contentious issues behind-the-scenes during the first half of the legislative session was a bill that, among other things, would allow employees to leave a gun in their car at their workplace whether their employer’s policies approve or not.
Negotiations surrounding the bill have been ongoing for months between representatives from the Business Council of Alabama, law enforcement, trial lawyers, and the National Rifle Association, but they have not been able to reach an agreement.
The NRA is advocating for the protection of gun owners’ rights while the BCA is advocating for the preservation of the rights of property owners. Both the 2nd and 5th Amendments elicit strong responses from the conservative base. As a result, this issue has caused groups and individuals who are normally ideologically aligned to take opposing sides.
BCA President & CEO Billy Canary said in a statement today that SB286 “erodes the constitutional property rights of businesses.” He also said that for BCA to support the bill, “businesses must be immune from civil liability, the bill must apply equally to everyone in Alabama, and there must be an opt-in opt-out provision for businesses.”
The NRA maintains on their website that the bill “seeks to restore and protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”
Here’s a rundown of what the bill does:
- States that no employer may prohibit the otherwise lawful possession, transportation or storage of firearms or ammunition that is kept out of sight within a locked or attended private vehicle of an invitee who is otherwise permitted to operate or park that vehicle on the property.
- Repeals the requirement to obtain a pistol permit in order to carry a pistol in a vehicle, but would not allow for the concealed carry in a vehicle unless a valid pistol permit is possessed.)
- Shifts the current “May Issue” concealed carry permit system to a “Shall Issue” permit system and requires that a sheriff must issue the carry permit within thirty days. Should someone be denied a permit, a written denial must be provided and that applicant would have an opportunity to appear before an appeal panel.
- States that a permit to carry a concealed pistol shall be good for one to five years (to be decided by the person seeking the carry permit).
- Requires sheriffs to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to conduct a background check on concealed pistol permit applicants.
- Allows for all other valid state-issued permits to carry a concealed firearm to be recognized in Alabama.
- Reserves for the state legislature complete control over regulation and policy relating to firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories.
Policy positions aside, it’s interesting to note the politics at play. The bill is sponsored by Tea Party-favorite Senator Scott Beason, but he’s joined by unlikely partners in Democrat Senator Roger Bedford and House Minority Leader Craig Ford. Beason has never been one to shy away from a polarizing issue, but Bedord and Ford clearly feel they’ve found a bill that has the potential to divide Republicans. “Republicans voting on this bill will open themselves up to opposition from either the NRA or BCA,” a Senator told Yellowhammer Monday afternoon. “No one wants to have to pick between two good friends.”
The bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 7-1 several weeks back. If it comes to the floor for a vote, it looks like it will pass.
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