Sheriff: Bill passed by Senate dangerous

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 21, 2014

Alabama residents no longer need a conceal-carry permit to transport an unloaded gun that is out of the driver’s reach in a vehicle, thanks to controversial legislation passed last year; however, the Senate this week has passed a bill that aims to change that restriction.

Sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and co-sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, SB 354 passed the upper house Wednesday night. The bill, which now goes to the Alabama House of Representatives, would allow loaded handguns to be transported in vehicles without a conceal-carry permit.

The bill is expected to draw fire from detractors who say Alabama’s law is already too unrestrictive, and Covington County Sheriff Dennis Meeks agrees.

“This legislation is the most dangerous thing I’ve ever seen done,” Meeks said Thursday. “I can’t believe a legislator would be so naïve as to think that everyone who drives around with a loaded gun is a pillar of the community.”

With sheriff’s departments statewide tasked with issuing conceal-carry permits, the loss in revenue the bill’s change could bring has been a point of contention, but Meeks says the money is the least of his worries.

“It’s not about the money whatsoever,” he said. “This opens the door for every thug riding around, or that we have put in jail over and over, to have the legal authority to ride around with a hand gun, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Meeks said the job of law enforcement officials is dangerous enough without eliminating another deterrent to carrying a gun for those likely to violently offend.

“Every one of us is for the Second Amendment, without a doubt, but we are not living in the days of Mayberry,” Meeks said. “If this passes, and we stop someone for something – anything – we don’t know what we’re walking into. And no matter why we stopped them, there’s nothing we can charge them with as far as the handgun. It’s going to wind up getting a lot of officers killed.”

Meeks said the process of obtaining a conceal-carry permit, which became easier for citizens with the passing of last year’s bill, is still an important check against violent crime.

“People who have a permit have gone through the background checks,” he said. “There’s now like three different checks you have to go through. Of course, you never know, but at least after the checks we know, ‘Hey, there’s a pretty good chance this person is going to use it right.’ ”

Beason, who is giving up his seat this year to run for Congress in Alabama’s 6th District, told fellow lawmakers the bill would be the last he passes as a state senator.