Supporters of Alabama Senate Bill 286 proclaim it clarifies how people can openly carry handguns in Alabama. Still, there may be more questions than answers provided by the new law taking effect Thursday. The wide-ranging legislation provides guidance for who can carry a pistol and when, as well as a laundry list of other things including when deadly force is authorized under the law.
The legislation has also left some business owners wondering when they can or should confront a person carrying a weapon on their premises. While many argue they have the right to bear arms, there remains many in our society frightened by the sight of an average citizen “packing heat” on a public street.
The bill, signed by Governor Robert Bentley in May, becomes law Thursday.
In recent months, there is a noticeable increase people in Alabama carrying holstered weapons in public. Some bystanders often ask, is the practice legal? How can an observer be certain the armed person is mentally stable enough to carry a weapon? Why would a business allow a visible weapon to be paraded about on their premises?
The old adage, ‘out of sight … out of mind’ is often the case many prefer while carrying a pistol. The sight of a firearm puts many people on an emotional edge.
Traditionally, many employers have barred employees from possessing weapons in the workplace, to include in business parking lots. Workplace shootings sparked many businesses to create such policies to make sure all employees feel safe and are not distracted by the open display of weapons by employees.
The new Alabama law not only allows employees to have a weapon in a workplace parking lot, but it also provides civil penalties for employers who ask if an employee has a weapon in their vehicle.
One passage in the law some business owners worry about has them liable under civil law for asking an openly armed person to conceal their weapon while on the premises.
Senate Bill 286 provides individuals protections “to prohibit a business entity or property owner or legal possessor from establishing policies against persons transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition when the person is otherwise in compliance with all other applicable laws under certain conditions”.
While there are some parameters established in the law barring being armed at some places like police stations, courthouses and schools, there are other public places and circumstances that leaves businesses wondering if they could run afoul of the law by confronting an openly armed person on their premises.
The bill repeals Section 13A-11-52 of the Code of Alabama that currently states “Except as otherwise provided in this article, no person shall carry a pistol about his person on premises not his own or under his control; but this section shall not apply to any sheriff or his deputy or police officer of an incorporated town or city in the lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or to United States marshal or his deputies, rural free delivery mail carriers in the discharge of their duties as such, bonded constables in the discharge of their duties as such, conductors, railway mail clerks and express messengers in the discharge of their duties.”
That change has business owners asking about what rights the have when it comes to armed people showing up on the premises. Many may support the right to bear arms, but they also do not want to put those customers who are uncomfortable around firearms, ill at ease.
While the new law does not allow people to carry weapons at places like schools, police stations and courthouses, it opens up to interpretation what private properties can bar the open display of handguns.
The National Rifle Association supported the legislation calling it an effort to “protect and restore your Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Alabama”. The NRA praised Senators Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) and Roger Bedford (D-Russellville) and Representative Ed Henry (R-Decatur) for efforts to sponsor the bill.
Similar legislation was pushed through the last session of the Mississippi legislature and the new law took effect earlier this month. A few weeks later, a Mississippi judge enjoined the law calling it unconstitutionally vague. The judge wants the legislature to clarify it.
Governor Phil Bryant, more than six dozen lawmakers and the NRA are now petitioning the Mississippi Supreme Court to allow them to file briefs supporting the law. A group of Mississippi lawmakers and law enforcement representatives asked Bryant to repeal the law in late June.
Groups like the “Alabama Open Carry” organization are closely watching developments involving the new law. They’ve already started posting names, addresses and photos of businesses that openly state they do not want people carrying weapons on their facilities. The pro-gun group says the new law is a first step. They also plan to push for legislation to provide that “Law enforcement may NOT confiscate or run serial number checks for peaceably open carrying. Nor can they demand a Social Security Number.”
Alabama’s bill was sweeping legislation that many believe is destined to be challenged. It states, “A person may use deadly physical force, and is legally presumed to be justified in using deadly physical force in self-defense or the defense of another person”, if they meet any of a myriad of criteria.
Among other things it does:
– Amends Code of Alabama Section 11-80-11 prohibiting counties and municipalities from regulating certain activity related to firearms;
– Provides civil remedies to those adversely affected by county or municipality efforts to regulate firearms;
– Amends Code of Alabama Section 13A-11-7 protecting those carrying a firearm from the crime of disorderly conduct;
– Amends Code of Alabama Section 13A-11-59 to clarify the prohibition of possession a firearm while attending a demonstration at a public place;
– Amends Code of Alabama Section 13A-11-73 to allow the possession of a pistol in a motor vehicle;
– Determines the mere presence of a pistol in a vehicle does not create a presumption that the pistol is concealed;
– Amends Code of Alabama Section 13A-11-75, to allow for a lifetime vehicle only permit authorizing a person to carry a pistol in a vehicle;
– To require a sheriff to issue a vehicle-only permits and concealed pistol permit within a certain time frame;
– Increases the pistol permit renewal period, provides eligibility requirements, fee and revocation guidelines for the permits;
– Creates an appeals process for denials and revocations of pistol permits;
– Prohibits pistol permits from being issued to illegal aliens;
– Amends Code of Alabama Section 13A-11-85 allowing the Alabama Attorney General to enter into reciprocal agreements with other states to recognize licenses to carry pistols. The AG has had the authority to do that for more than 10 years;
– Amends Code of Alabama Section 40-12-143 to levy business license taxes on those participating in gun shows;
– Allows employees to transport or store a firearm in the employee’s privately-owned motor vehicle under certain conditions;
– Prohibits an employer from asking if an employee is transporting or storing a firearm in a private vehicle;
– Prohibits a business entity or property owner or legal possessor from establishing policies against persons transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition;
– Provides language allowing the carrying of pistols on private and public property;
– Provides a list of prohibited places where a person may not knowingly possess a firearm without permission;
– Provides that a person or business entity has no duty to guard against the criminal acts of a third party;
– Provides that an employer is not liable for the actions of its employees outside the line and scope of employment;
– Repeals Code of Alabama Section 11-45-1.1 relating to the authority of a municipality to enact ordinances relating to handguns;
– Repeals Code of Alabama Section 13A-11-52 relating to the carrying of a pistol on the property of another.
Alabama law enforcement agencies are still conducting workshops to try and understand the new law and how it effects the abilities to openly carry a pistol in Alabama.