The weeks leading up to the 2019 session of the Alabama Legislature brings plenty of pre-filed bills, but one in particular is troubling.
State Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, is making another attempt to push through a bill eliminating the requirement for Alabamians to obtain a pistol permit to conceal and carry handguns.
Allen contends residents have a constitutional right to carry pistols without having to register with the local sheriff's office.
Alabama is a decidedly pro-gun state, one of the tops. According to a report by CBS, for every 1,000 residents in Alabama, there are 20 guns. That's a total of 96,744 registered firearms among 4,833,722 people. That places Alabama at No. 7 in the country.
The amount of unregistered guns can only be a guess because of weapons handed down by families or brought into the state illegally.
The presence of so many guns is not in itself bad. Hunting, target shooting and self-defense have long been the reasons Americans are constitutionally guaranteed the right to own guns under the Second Amendment.
Allen, however, is stepping beyond the Constitution in his bill. The government, for the sake of the people, has the right — and it's a beneficial right — to know who owns or has purchased certain guns. The information is valuable for law enforcement officers when they are alerted to potential problems.
For many officers, Allen's bill would add more danger to their jobs. And if their work is more difficult, the general public may have less protection.
Cullman Police Chief Kenny Culpepper said the system of applying for a permit at the sheriff's office is easily obtained information for officers, but only when needed.
Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry said the issuing of permits has two benefits for law-abiding residents. First, it allows them to travel with a concealed weapon to more than 20 other states that have similar laws as Alabama. And second, there is convenience for permit holders that speeds up purchasing additional firearms.
The Alabama Sheriffs Association says permits are a matter of public safety, giving law enforcement the ability to know if someone is allowed to legally carry a firearm.
Through the years, sheriffs have done a good job of screening local populations through the permit system. Everyone should want the checks and balance of a professional law enforcement staff evaluating requests for permits to carry concealed weapons.
Last year, Allen's bill passed the Senate and failed in the House.
While we appreciate the Second Amendment and the stance of many law-abiding Alabamians to have access to guns, the permit system provides some protection for the public.
Citizens who are responsible and train with firearms cannot only have the chance to protect themselves, but others. These individuals should not have any problems in obtaining a permit.
For the amount of protection it provides, we support keeping the sheriff involved in issuing conceal carry permits and recommend that Allen's bill fails again.