BY KATHY WINGARD
MONTGOMERY, Ala. —
A proposal to expand the permitting process to allow guns to be transported and stored in automobiles faced strong opposition Tuesday at a public hearing by a House committee.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, would provide for a lifetime permit for gun owners to keep their guns in their cars. The public hearing was standing-room only as the issue came before the House Commerce and Small Business Committee.
A similar bill has passed through the Senate's committee process.
Several groups representing business owners and companies across Alabama said that if the bill (HB 570) passes, they would not be able to offer employees a safe workplace.
William Canary of the Business Council of Alabama contended that the bill would infringe on business owners' private property rights by allowing employees to keep guns in their locked cars on company property.
One manufacturing representative expressed concern that just a spark from gun handling could ignite volatile components, while others publicly worried that guns on their property would increase liability.
Proponents of the proposed legislation told the committee that they have the right to protect themselves wherever they go, not just in their homes. Under current regulations, guns and ammunition are not legally allowed to be freely transported in private vehicles.
Members of various law enforcement agencies also spoke against the proposal at the standing-room-only hearing.
A retired sheriff from Auburn told the committee that the bill "is not good for public safety." Later he said that angry drivers with guns in their vehicles or armed bar patrons with disagreements could prove dangerous to the public.
Rep. Henry said that the bill would be substituted in order to correct "terminology that's not enforceable." Both versions are supported by the National Rifle Association, he said.
When pressed by Rep. Craig Ford, D-Etowah, Henry said was not prepared to offer the newer version because he was "still waiting to hear back" from the NRA.
No vote was taken.