Opinion | The danger of permitless carry in Alabama

Mary Claire Wooten, Staff Columnist

Since the beginning of 2023, Tuscaloosa County alone has seen seven people killed in five separate incidents. 

In 2022, the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit investigated 20 homicides. In 2021, there were 23 homicides, tied with 2020. These deaths were more spread out in past years but on Jan. 1, Alabama lifted the permit requirement for carrying a firearm in public spaces. 

The absence of this already flimsy system for permits will ultimately increase gun violence in public settings. Alabama will have permits available for those who will be crossing state lines. 

The requirements for owning a gun remain the same: any person older than 18 who hasn’t been convicted of a violent crime, anyone who hasn’t been adjudicated mentally deficient and anyone who currently doesn’t have a protective order against them can own a firearm. However, no one will be checking for these criteria any longer if there is no reason to have a permit.   

The new law changes the language of the previous Alabama code to clarify that possession of a firearm in public settings is no longer a crime. A person could still be arrested for “brandishing” or “waving, flourishing, displaying, or holding an item in a manner that is threatening,” since that’s the exact moment someone might realize they’re in danger.

It’s very progressive to consider that the point in which the police should be dispatched possibly arrive too late to diffuse the situation. An average police response time ranges from five to six minutes depending on the severity of a situation, and these times increase in more rural parts of the state. 

There will still be locations that prohibit firearms such as concealed carrying on military bases, federal courthouses and federal law enforcement offices under federal law, even for gun owners with a permit. State law prohibits carrying a concealed weapon in police or sheriff’s departments, all prisons and jails, psychiatric and drug treatment facilities as well as halfway houses.  

However, without a permit, carrying on private property without the owner’s permission will result in a charge for trespassing for refusing to leave the business or property if confronted by the owner. Since those who concealed carry do not often disclose the firearms before entering a location, the odds of not discovering the weapon until it’s too late is the most likely scenario.  

The bill was also largely opposed by law enforcement agencies as permits assist in removing guns from criminals. Previously, when applying for a permit, your criminal history would be run through the National Crime Information Center.

Without the requirement of this process, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency has been forced to create a new state firearm-prohibited person database. Representatives from across the state claim that the new database will create a better system than the one designed for issuing permits. Departments are expected to lose thousands of dollars with fewer issued permits. 

When officers perform a routine traffic stop, the knowledge of whether there is a gun in the car and whether there is a permit for it is to deduce if the individual has previously committed an act that would prevent them from receiving a permit. This can give officers a reason to investigate the vehicle or individual. With the use of the previous methods for distributing permits, the Alabama Sheriffs Association said they denied 6,000 permits in 2021 alone. 

The argument is that a burden will be lifted on Alabamians’ Second Amendment rights. It’s no question that those who are in our state legislature are pro-Second Amendment, but this bill is simply a question of whether we value public safety, not guns.

“Constitutional carry” isn’t constitutional if others are at risk. 

As of 2023, 25 states do not have a policy that requires a permit for concealed carry. A permit generally requires a safety training course, most of which call for completing live-fire shooting exercises. 

Without these requirements, firearms are more likely to be put into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. As young people who were socialized in an age where school shootings and gun violence are the norm, we should be terrified. 

While considering who to vote for in upcoming elections, make sure that the candidates support common-sense gun laws. Additionally, contact your representatives to let them know how you feel about the dangers of permitless carry. 

If law enforcement is worried, we should be, too.