Politics, guns make strange bedfellows

Published 12:56 am Saturday, April 6, 2013

Figuring out what’s actually happening in Montgomery this session is a bit challenging.

There is the Business Council of Alabama, traditionally a bastion of conservative Republican thinking. And there’s the Sheriff’s Association – law and order guys. If anybody opposed their positions, you’d expect it to be the most liberal Democrat imaginable.

Instead, these two organizations have found themselves at odds against state Republicans, and they lost a round with them in the state Senate Thursday, 27-5.

The bill in question, although slightly watered down from its original version, lessens the authority of sheriffs in issuing pistol permits. At present, sheriffs can deny permits. The new law would require sheriffs to issue or renew permits within 30 days or provide justification in writing. If a permit were denied, the applicant could appeal to District Court.

It also says employers can’t tell employees not to bring a gun to work. It allows people to openly carry firearms in public places. And gives people free lifetime permits to carry pistols in their vehicles.

People could not carry a gun to a college or high school athletic event, a courthouse or the office of a law enforcement officer. They could, however, take one to a “public demonstration” with 10 or fewer people there.

Our own Sen. Jimmy Holley, a Republican, was a co-sponsor. But so was one of the longest-serving, and few remaining Democratic senators, Roger Bedford of Russellville.

While the BCA and Sheriff’s Association fought against the bill, the NRA and the Tea Party did not.

Montgomery insiders say that the bill is designed to weaken the strength of the Republican party, with a theory that goes something like this: Legislators are pressured by the NRA to support the bill, then thinking people oppose or vote against them. Those people get the support of the BCA and the Sheriff’s Association, and suddenly a primary might be won by a Tea Partier instead of a moderate Republican. And in the end, the district might go for the Democratic opponent.

It sounds like a far stretch to us, but we must admit, there are no other theories that make sense. Why else would the Republican-controlled legislature work against such strong supporters?

In this case, politics and guns made some strange bedfellows.

The bill now goes to the House.