New signs needed for gun law

Published 12:48 am Friday, August 9, 2013

Action advised in wake of new open carry law

The implications of Alabama’s new gun law, which took effect this month, are still not completely known, but it appears to be a good idea for businesses concerned about safety to post “no firearms allowed” signs, local law enforcement officials agreed.

“Business that want to exclude open carry should put up ‘no firearms allowed’ notices, or something to that effect,” District Attorney Walt Merrell said.

The new law allows a lawful gun owner to openly carry firearms in public places, with certain exceptions, and on private property with consent.

Concealed-carry permit holders are allowed to have handguns on public and private property, with some exceptions.

Employers may prevent employees from carrying a firearm at work, but they may have a pistol in their cars if they have concealed-carry permits. Unloaded long guns may be stored in parking lots during hunting seasons.

Firearms may be stored securely in vehicles in parking lots of athletic events, where carrying a gun is prohibited, with exceptions for prisons and mental health facilities.

A number of local businesses have posted “No firearms allowed” signs in the past week, and Andalusia Chief Wilbur Williams said law enforcement officers across the state encourage business owners to take that step as the law is sorted out. Training for law enforcement personnel has just begun, he said.

Merrell and other local law enforcement officers in the county were in just such a class in Montgomery on Thursday.

“There are probably 600 officers here, and at least 50 percent are chiefs, sheriffs or other administrative types. They were opposed to this new law from the beginning,” Merrell said.

He said many parts of the new law are unclear. However, what he is advising local businesses and law enforcement officers to do is post signage.

“It appears that right-to-carry trumps property rights here,” he said.

If a business is posted and someone is carrying a weapon, that person should be asked to leave. If they refuse, they can be charged with trespassing, he said.

Meanwhile, Alabama Community College System Chancellor Mark Heinrich sent a memo to college presidents saying the system will continue to enforce its existing prohibition against unauthorized firearms on its campuses.

But some still have questions about how the gun law applies to college campuses, and most say those questions likely will be answered in court.

Merrell said the new law does not change Article 16, which prohibits guns on elementary and secondary school campuses.

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, who sponsored the bill, told state news agencies last week that he believes the new law will allow college students to have weapons on campus.

Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Administrator Mac Gipson announced this week his department plans to order signs saying “No handguns allowed without a permit” for its 170 stores across the state. The ban would not apply to customers with concealed carry permits, he said.

Business and law enforcement groups across the state opposed passage of the bill.