Alabama’s new gun law took effect at midnight Thursday, and Sheriff Mike Blakely is fielding a number of calls from gun owners confused about certain aspects.
Here are some of the main changes that took effect Aug. 1:
The new law makes it clear that carrying a visible pistol, holstered or secured, in a public place does not constitute disorderly conduct. Guns are still banned from many government buildings, mental health facilities and any facility hosting an athletic event not related to firearms.
The law says those without concealed carry permits may carry unloaded pistols in their vehicles as long as the guns are locked away out of reach, such as in the trunk or glove compartment.
The law says employers can prevent employees from bringing guns inside but they cannot prevent them from keeping a weapon in their vehicle.
The law says businesses open to the public can post signs prohibiting someone from openly carrying a gun inside. However, the business cannot prohibit someone with a concealed carry permit from bringing in a concealed weapon.
The new law revised 10 sections of the Alabama code pertaining to guns, Blakely said, but only a few points really seem to be confusing gun owners.
• More permit options. The new law says a gun owner may obtain a concealed carry permit for up to five years instead of just one, the sheriff said. In Limestone, the permit cost is $15 annually, so a three-year permit would cost $45 or a five-year permit would cost $75.
• Guns on private property. The new law still allows property owners, including businesses, to control their premises.
“If you go to the Waffle House and the business does not have a sign saying no firearms, the manager can tell the person he doesn’t want the gun inside,” Blakely said. “If the manager tells him to leave and he doesn’t, then he can be arrested for trespassing. If the business has a sign saying no guns and a person walks in with a gun anyway, they could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for an open-carry violation.”
• Guns in vehicles. The law states that if you have a concealed weapons permit, you may have a loaded weapon anywhere in your vehicle. If you do not have a concealed weapons permit, you may have a gun in your car only if it is unloaded and locked in a compartment or container in the vehicle and out of reach from the driver or any passenger in the vehicle, Blakely said.
“The unloaded and locked provision only applies to people who do not have a concealed carry permit,” Blakely said. “Those with a permit can carry their gun the way they always have.”
That means loaded and stuck in your purse or loaded and stashed under the seat.
If you are on property you own, such as your backyard or farmland, you may have a pistol in your car, concealed or not.
Who can be denied?
Blakely said he and the Alabama Sheriffs Association opposed the early version of the gun bill because it did not give sheriffs any discretion in issuing concealed carry permits. That changed in the final version of the law.
“This is a bill we can live with,” Blakely said.
Now sheriffs grant permits as long as applicants meet the following conditions:
• 18 years of age;
• Never found guilty in a criminal case by reason of insanity;
• Never been declared incompetent to stand trial;
• Never declared a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity or mental disease or defect or lack of mental responsibility as defined in Uniform Code of Military Justice;
• Never required involuntary outpatient treatment in a psychiatric hospital with a finding that the person is a danger to self or others;
• Never required involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital for any reason, including drug use;
• Never subject to a prosecution or incompetency proceeding that could lead to a loss of firearm rights under state or federal law;
• Never falsified any portion of the application;
• Never deemed a justifiable concern to public safety.