Imagine if an Alabama politician introduced legislation that required citizens to pay a fee in order to attend church. He or she wouldn’t be a politician for very long. Why? We wouldn’t take kindly to government turning a profit off our exercise of constitutional rights embodied in the First Amendment.
Our reaction shouldn’t be any different when it comes to the Second Amendment. State Sen. Gerald Allen’s S.B. 24 embodies that sentiment. Among other changes, the legislation would repeal certain restrictions on carrying a firearm without a permit.
That has many sheriffs across Alabama concerned about the consequences of the bill on law enforcement. “The pistol permit is a tool used by law enforcement to quickly screen an occupant of a vehicle or a person stopped in investigative detention to determine if they are lawfully allowed to possess a concealed handgun,” wrote Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning.
The other consequence of repealing the permit requirement is lost revenue to sheriff’s offices. According to AL.com’s Brendan Kirby, the permit fees range from $7.50 to $30 per year across Alabama’s counties.
There’s an easy compromise here: Keep the permit and remove or reduce the fee. The government shouldn’t profit off citizens exercising a constitutional right, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not helpful for law enforcement to anticipate how to engage a firearm during a stop.
It’s not a particularly heavy burden to apply for and secure a permit. Sheriff Mike Hale of Jefferson County, for example, has made the process about as easy as it could be. I dropped off my application, the sheriff’s office ran a background check and they issued me a pistol license good for five years.
While we’re at it, the process could be even easier by allowing gun dealers to issue pistol licenses when handguns are purchased. Dealers are required to run background checks on customers anyway. Why not ask if he or she would like a carry license at the same time?
Alabamians are passionate about their Second Amendment rights, but most of us don’t want to make law enforcement’s job any more difficult or dangerous than it already is. If sheriffs have safety concerns about removing the permit requirement, we should take them seriously. That said, Sen. Allen’s insistence that government shouldn’t profit off our Second Amendment exercise is right on the money.
Image by JazzyGeoff