MONTGOMERY — During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s public hearing on a constitutional carry bill on Wednesday, a Democratic state senator accused Second Amendment advocates of wanting people with mental illnesses to be able to purchase and possess firearms, leading the senator to assert that these same advocates themselves have “some mental problems.”
State Sen. Gerald Allen’s (R-Tuscaloosa) SB 4 would get rid of the requirement that a gun owner has to have a permit to carry a lawfully owned firearm. It would not affect any existing legal requirements for someone to lawfully obtain that firearm.
Sheriffs from across the state came to Montgomery to oppose the bill, saying it would get rid of a useful law enforcement tool and source of revenue. They advised that gun permitting requirements give them probable cause to ask for permits when making a multiple-occupant vehicle stop and often later find that weapons then confiscated have been stolen but not previously recorded as such.
Members of Moms Demand Action also opposed the bill.
Proponents of the bill, including BamaCarry’s Eddie Fulmer, pointed to data from states that have implemented the same type of policy. They said law-abiding citizens continue to get permits when purchasing or otherwise legally obtaining weapons and that non-law-abiding citizens will continue to illegally obtain and possess firearms. They also said that law enforcement concerns about safety are not backed up by the data from these other states and added that similar concerns when Alabama moved from a “may issue” state to “shall issue” in 2013 did not come to fruition.
However, none of this testimony was new or particularly noteworthy. The same debate happened last year when the bill passed the Senate but stalled in the House.
The fireworks started when the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Todd Adkins was speaking in favor of SB 4. Afterward, State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile) used her opportunity to ask questions of Adkins to launch into a diatribe that had nothing to do with the bill at hand, or any bill that has been filed in the Alabama legislature.
“[W]hy would you want to do certain things that really put people at greater risk?” Figures asked, not pausing for an answer.
She said, “You even want to repeal a part of the law that’s in place now about carrying weapons into a demonstration, where everyone knows that the emotions are high … and we also know Congresswoman (Gabby) Giffords (of Arizona) was actually shot during that time, during a demonstration. Why would you want to take away the presumption of intent? That somebody could just shoot someone else and not even have intent, to repeal that. I really don’t understand it. I’ve always gotten an ‘F’ from the National Rifle Association and that’s a proud ‘F’ that I receive… I just don’t understand the mentality of what you guys or – or what you guys continue to push to do. Particularly, with all the gun violence that is happening, to allow a person to be able to get a gun who has mental problems – to me that says the person who’s pushing that has some mental problems. They don’t understand why people with mental issues shouldn’t have a weapon.”
State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), the chairman of the committee, then kindly warned her, “Let’s keep it close now, Senator.”
“Well, it’s just fact,” Figures responded, then saying, “I didn’t call any names.”
“But you are talking to me,” Adkins said.
“Well, I’m talking to you because you are representing the National Rifle Association, but I’m also talking about all of the people who keep pushing this,” Figures admitted. “I don’t understand why you all don’t understand that part of it. It just – I don’t understand.”
Speaking to Yellowhammer News after the hearing, Adkins explained that Figures’ assertions were sadly indicative of devolving American discourse, as scare tactics and smears now reign above substantive debate.
“Well, obviously I understand that this is a controversial issue for folks on both sides… so I understand that people can get excited and rather dramatic about this,” Adkins said. “But I’m the NRA. And we have members throughout this state, and I can assure you that we believe in the right to self-defense. We believe in the Second Amendment. That certainly doesn’t mean we have any issues that she was attempting to associate with us.”
He continued, “I’ve seen it become more and more common in the public square unfortunately these days that such attacks are made. And I will say: I respect her right to voice her opinion certainly. That’s what these types of hearings are all about, but I won’t characterize why necessarily she made them. I’ll just say I know all the people I work on behalf of – our members in this state – are good, law-abiding citizens.”
Ward said the committee will vote on the bill next week.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn