Police support child gun bill

Published 12:04 am Thursday, April 9, 2015

Local law enforcement support a proposed bill allowing minors to carry guns with supervision. | Courtesy photo

Local law enforcement support a proposed bill allowing minors to carry guns with supervision. | Courtesy photo

Local law enforcement officials say they have no problem with minors carrying a pistol as long as they are under parental or a guardian’s supervision.

A bill that’s under consideration in the Alabama State House and Senate — HB328 and SB262 — would allow a minor under 18 to receive or possess a pistol if he or she has the consent of a parent, guardian or spouse who is 18 years of age or older and satisfies additional criteria. The additional criteria includes:

• that the minor carry a pistol on property owned or leased by the parent or other immediate family member, guardian, or on the property with consent of the lawful owner of the property;

• that the minor be in the presence of a licenses or accredited gun safety instructor; and,

• that the pistol is being used for hunting, trapping, target shooting, competing in firearm competition, or firearm or hunting training, or instruction.

Covington County Sheriff Dennis Meeks said it’s OK for a minor to possess a pistol, only if a parent is giving supervision.

“It’s my understanding that the bill deals with persons under the age of 18 being able to possess and attend gun safety courses with a handgun while in the presence of their parents,” Meeks said. “A juvenile under the age of 18, in my opinion, if they’re going to a firing range with their parents for target practice, then that’s fine. There’s nothing in there that I read is dealing with issuing permits to anyone under the age of 18.

“I really don’t have a position at this point because this is talking about them possessing a firearm for a gun safety course while in the presence of their parents,” he said.

Meeks said he knows that parents take their kids to hunter safety courses.

“I’m not against them being able to possess a gun to go to a safety course as long as they’re with their parents,” he said. “I’m not reading anything in there where they’re asking anything to be issued a pistol permit. If that comes up, then I would absolutely be strongly opposed to that.”

South Alabama Gun Club member Wayne Geohagan said a parent must be in the minor’s presence in order for him or her to possess a gun.

“With their parents standing with them, I’m 100 percent behind that,” Geohagan said. “Even my grandchildren, I’d like to see them learn and operate and use a gun safely.”

Geohagan said he’s all for teaching minors about gun safety.

Geohagan retired from the CCSO in 2013.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Ed Henry and by Sen. Arthur Orr.

According to reports, Orr said that under the current law, he is unable to lawfully hand his son a pistol, even if its on his own property.

Minors are currently allowed to lawfully handle rifles and shotguns.

Florala Police Chief Sonny Bedsole said the bill, if enacted, would help increase interest in gun safety.

“If the minors and their parents are complying with that law, then I don’t see a problem with it,” Bedsole said. “There are responsible people. I think it would actually help get people more interested in gun safety instead of people not trained carrying a gun. I know it would cut back on firearms accidents.”