New gun law expand rights, questions remain

Published 9:08 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Smoking gun: Alabama’s new gun law will strengthen the state’s pre-existing “open carry” policy.

Smoking gun: Alabama’s new gun law will strengthen the state’s pre-existing “open carry” policy.

With a new gun law taking effect Thursday, and gun rights an increasingly discussed topic, local officials are stressing that residents and business owners should know their rights–and limitations.

To prepare residents for the new law, Clanton Police Department held an open course, titled “Open Carry 101,” at the department on July 22 and 29 and invited members of the local business community.

“This meeting is to make the business community aware of how we’ll respond to calls,” said CPD Capt. Neil Fetner, who hosted the class along with Deputy Chief Keith Maddox. “People are going to call the police; that’s the world we live in.”

The new law, which was passed by the state Legislature in its most recent session, expands the rights of gun owners in the state.

Open carry

Even before the new law, Alabama was already an “open-carry” state, meaning residents could openly carry firearms in public places.

The “disorderly conduct” law was a common justification for preventing people from openly carrying firearms in public, but the new law states that police should presume that the carrying of a visible, secured pistol in a public place does not constitute disorderly conduct.

The law also seems to expand where people can openly carry firearms. In addition to any other place spelled out in federal law, the following locations are off limits for guns:

•Inside the building of a police, sheriff or highway patrol station.

•Inside or on the premises of a prison, jail, halfway house, community corrections facility or other detention facility for those who have been charged with or convicted of a criminal or juvenile offense.

•Inside or on the premises of a facility that provides inpatient or custodial care of those with psychiatric, mental or emotional disorders.

•Inside a courthouse, courthouse annex, a building in which a district attorney’s office is located, or a building in which a county commission or city council is currently having a regularly scheduled or specially called meeting.

•Inside any facility hosting an athletic event not related to or involving firearms that is sponsored by a private or public school.

•Inside any facility hosting a professional athletic event not related to or involving firearms.

People can also openly carry guns on private property, such as businesses that are open to the public, if they have the business owner’s permission. More on that later.

Another significant change in the law is that gun owners–even if they don’t have a concealed weapon permit–may transport their guns in their vehicles as long as the firearms are unloaded and locked in a container in or affixed to the vehicle and out of the reach of the driver and any passenger in the vehicle.