New gun law expand rights, questions remainBy Stephen Dawkins Published 9:08pm Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Sheriffs are responsible for issuing concealed carry permits in each county.
Chilton County Sheriff Kevin Davis said his office issued 2,329 permits from Jan. 1 through June 30. Davis said that number has about doubled since the same time period a couple of years ago.
“We have definitely seen an increase in pistol permits the last two years,” Davis said.
Anyone interested in applying for a permit can visit the sheriff’s office at the Chilton County Courthouse, or obtain an application online. The fee for a permit is $25.25.
An initial background check is conducted upon a person’s first application. After that, people need only pay the fee to renew the permit.
The sheriff determines whether the applicant can lawfully possess a gun (based on a lack of criminal felonies). Davis said less than 2 percent of applicants have been denied since he was elected to office in 2006.
The new law changes the sheriffs’ responsibility from “may issue” to “shall issue.”
Before, sheriffs could deny permits at their discretion. Now, a sheriff could only deny a permit based on one of the law’s provisions, and then the sheriff would have to supply a written explanation of the denial and the applicant could appeal the decision.
“There’s no discretion there,” Davis said.
Among the reasons a person could be denied a permit include being found mentally ill or legally insane in a criminal case.
Permits, or letters explaining the denial of a permit, are to be issued within 30 days of the receipt of the application.
The law also allows applicants to obtain a permit for up to five years, if they would like to go ahead and pay that much. The old law required people to re-apply every year.
The law changes Alabama’s reciprocity policy. Under the new law, the state will recognize the pistol permit granted in any other state.
Gun friendly or gun free
While the new law limits open-carrying at private businesses to instances in which the gun owner has permission from the business owner, it also details steps needed to make a business a “gun-free zone.”
So, if a business owner does nothing, he or she is seen as giving implied consent.
According to the law, a person or entity with authority over the premises “shall place a notice at the public entrances of such premises or buildings alerting those entering that firearms are prohibited.”
Also, an employee must be designated to verbally advise someone entering with a firearm that the business is a gun-free zone. Only then would a business be justified in contacting police for relief.
Fetner said he thinks police will be contacted for help resolving a situation that they aren’t legally able to.
“The expectation is what we’re going to be up against,” Fetner said.
Employers can enact and enforce workplace gun bans, but employees with permits cannot be barred from storing an unloaded firearm in their private vehicle parked on company property.
Weapons used for hunting are also allowed to be kept in an employee’s vehicle, as long as the owner has a hunting license and it is hunting season.
Officials are still unclear about some parts of the law.
For example, in defining public places where people are allowed to openly carry a pistol, schools are listed as an example.
Of course, there is an existing federal ban on possession of guns on school property, but the question is whether local police could arrest someone for violation of federal law.
Chilton County Schools Superintendent Dave Hayden said he doesn’t the think the law will have a negative effect on school safety.
“Most of our schools have cameras involved,” Hayden said. “That would serve as evidence that they are in violation of federal law. We want to do all we possibly can to keep our students and faculty safe.”
But Clanton Police officers said they’ll be looking for guidance on enforcing this aspect, and others, of the new law.
“Some of these questions we don’t have answers to,” Fetner said.