“S.B. 24 is not a Second Amendment bill and NRA should have kept their nose out of it,” wrote Alabama Sheriffs Association Executive Director Bobby Timmons in an email to members in March. “I am a lifetime Golden Eagle NRA Member and I resent the past president’s involvement in legislation that is none of their business.”
S.B. 24, sponsored by state Sen. Gerald Allen, would repeal certain restrictions on carrying a firearm without a permit and make other changes favorable to gun owners. To put it mildly, the National Rifle Association and the Alabama Sheriffs Association don’t see eye to eye on the measure.
Timmons took exception that Jim Porter, former national president of the NRA, and Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale testified in the Alabama Senate that “a citizen should not have to pay for his/her constitutional right to bear arms.” The text of the email suggests that Timmons is a bigger fan of government fees than the rights and privileges of Alabamians. If you want to fish, hunt, drive or marry, Timmons thinks you ought to have a little bureaucracy in your life.
To stir the pot even more, Timmons didn’t seem to like Hale using his First Amendment rights either. “The Alabama Sheriffs Association voted openly to be against S.B. 24 and the majority in attendance won,” wrote Timmons. “Together, whichever way you voted, should have bonded. What happened?” The clear message from Timmons was that Hale should have kept his mouth shut while the association opposed the bill.
I’m not sure how legislation that deals directly with pistol permits isn’t a Second Amendment issue, but I am sure that Timmons’s email to Alabama sheriffs wasn’t well-received when the NRA got wind of it.
Porter responded to Timmons’s shot with one of his own, a letter to Timmons dated March 10, 2017. “Your email…suggests that the right to keep and bear arms is just a voluntary privilege provided by the state, and like other privileges, should come with a monetary fee,” wrote Porter. “I could not disagree more.”
Porter assured Timmons “that NRA’s support of Senate Bill 24 will not waiver as this session proceeds.” He also asked Timmons to “keep things respectful and courteous.”
Porter and Hale might not be popular with the Alabama Sheriffs Association, but you can bet they’re heroes to gun enthusiasts and hunters throughout Alabama. I, for one, am glad my sheriff in Jefferson County doesn’t look at my Second Amendment exercise as a funding opportunity. I know he’s got a tough job keeping our community safe, and I appreciate him putting a premium on my constitutional rights. I’d like to think he’s not alone among Alabama’s sheriffs.
At a minimum, Alabamians across the state should expect a consistent pistol permit fee limited to the administrative costs of the background check and permit issue. The idea that Alabama burdens a constitutional right unevenly within the state is unacceptable, whether we have a permit requirement or not.
In a state where voters support law enforcement as well as the Second Amendment, Alabama legislators are going to have a tough time finding cover after these opening shots on S.B. 24.
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