Houston County - While politicians in Washington have been debating gun restrictions, Alabama legislators are pushing for an increase in gun rights.
Houston County Sheriff Andy Hughes is an avid supporter of the second amendment.
“I want every qualified citizen of Houston County to have a handgun and to know how to use it and to have it with them to protect their life or someone else's,” he said.
Now new legislation could increase the rights of Alabama gun owners, especially when it comes to concealed carry. One bill would require a sheriff to issue someone a concealed carry permit, unless there is a legal reason to deny it like being a felon. While that sounds reasonable, Hughes argues there are loopholes.
“They may be a habitual drunkard someone who doesn't need to be carrying a pistol. Someone that has a prescription drug problem. Someone who has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Those things are not going to show up in an NCIC background check,” said Hughes.
But some gun enthusiasts have a different opinion.
Brad McMath said, “If they are not a felon and they have a right to carry I believe they should have a right to carry.”
That same piece of legislation would also require the sheriff to issue a permit to illegal immigrants. Something Hughes won’t be doing anytime soon.
He said, “They're going to have to carry me to the us Supreme Court to force me to give a non us citizen a pistol permit. Those persons should not enjoy the same rights a citizen of the Unites States.”
An Alabama house committee has already approved a separate bill to allow a person to carry a pistol in their car without a permit, only if they are going to a gun range. It would have to be in the trunk and unloaded. The bill’s sponsor says it would encourage people to learn to use the weapons they have at home. Hughes argues criminals don’t always tell the truth.
“Well what do you think all the criminals are going to say when they get stopped?” he said. “People we know that don't need handguns, it could endanger civilians’ lives or even law enforcement. We don't need to pass any bad legislation that will allow something like that.”
The new proposals still have hurdles to clear in the state house.
I did speak with state Representative Steve Clouse this afternoon. He said the gun range bill will go to the rules committee next. He sees no problem with the piece of legislation.
Another bill would allow employees to have weapons at work as long as it remains locked in a car.