Contrasting opinions on elimating concealed carry permit requirement

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Montgomery (WTVY)- Coffee County Sheriff Dave Sutton believes concealed carry permits keep Alabama safer and adamantly opposes abolishing the requirement for them. He insists background checks to obtain permits are vital.

Coffee County Sheriff Dave Sutton addresses the Commission on 21st Century Gun Laws in this November 30, 2017 photo.

“It’s our first line of defense and it’s our last line of defense to make sure (the applicant) has a background check,” he told members of the Commission for 21st Century Gun Laws.

During a public hearing Thursday, Sutton’s views had plenty of support. Reverend Christine Bradshaw of Lee County reminded the panel of the recent church shootings in Texas that left 26 people dead.

Not all agree with Sutton and Bradshaw, including the National Rifle Association. The NRA’s Art Thomm points out it’s already legal to carry a gun in the open. “To say there would be an increase in crime because somebody puts on a coat while they can openly do something now is preposterous,” Thomm told WTVY. He believes resistance to eliminating permits is money driven.

Alabama sheriffs issue concealed carry permits that generally cost about $20 dollars annually though varies by county. Multi-year permits can run up to $100 or more.

Revenue, in most if not all cases, goes into discretionary accounts that, with limits, sheriffs determine how is spent. Sutton and others say the funds pay for equipment and provides training for budget strapped departments.

Thomm, though, believes motivation for keeping the permit requirement is money, not safety. “It’s all revenue driven,” he said.

While opposing eliminating them, Alabama Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Bobby Timmons hinted he might be more accepting of the idea if revenue---it’s hard to say how much---is replaced.

This is not the first attempt to abolish mandatory permits in the state. A similar measure last year won approval in the Senate but failed to clear the House.

Senator Gerald Allen (R-Cottondale), the bill’s sponsor in the upcoming legislative session, projects passage wouldn’t diminish revenue significantly because permits would still be required to carry a concealed weapon out of the state. Alabama has reciprocal agreements with several states.

Gun legislation has been a hot topic during recent years and laws were relaxed in previous sessions. For example, it’s now legal to have a pistol in a car with no permit. Also, a bill was passed prohibiting sheriffs from rejecting permit applications without compelling reasons such as a criminal record or history of mental illness.

Sutton believes he should be able to make judgement calls pointing out that there are people who have no record that shouldn’t be carrying a concealed weapon.

The commission has members on all sides of the issue. After a series of hearings, including the next one December 21, it will present findings to the Alabama Legislature that begins its 2018 session in January.