MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Key legislators have agreed on sweeping changes to Alabama gun laws, but the deal still must clear one more hurdle before it can go to Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature.
The primary sponsors, Republican Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale and Democratic Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville, hailed the agreement as a major step forward for gun owners' rights. Bedford and Beason, who don't typically land on the same side of any debate, joined forces to navigate a tense period of negotiations intended to satisfy the National Rifle Association, Alabama law enforcement leaders and the state chamber of commerce — all of them important groups for the Republican supermajority.
"This bill puts us light years ahead of where we are," Beason said. He's argued throughout the session that Alabama "was the least gun-friendly state in the South."
Under the plan, employees in Alabama would be able to have firearms in their car at work, and businesses couldn't be held liable for any harm resulting from the use of those weapons. Workers with long-barrel guns would have to have hunting licenses.
Beyond the parking lot at work, loaded weapons could be carried in cars by anyone with a concealed carry permit. A driver could carry an unloaded weapon, as long as it is out of reach, even without a permit.
Sheriffs would have to issue a written justification for denying a concealed weapons permit, and any denial could be appealed. Sheriffs now have complete discretion over requests for permits.
The legislation also clarifies that citizens can carry weapons openly in establishments that are open to the public unless the owners clearly post a weapons ban. Beason and other lawmakers said existing law is too confusing and has led to arrests of law-abiding citizens.