Russell County sheriff speaks about challenges of permitless carry

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 10:29 PM EDT
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RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WTVM) - Across the state of Alabama, there’s been an uptick in domestic and road rage incidents involving guns this year, according to Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor.

Some of those incidents happen when his department protects and serves.

That jump comes in the wake of a new law that went into place in January, removing requirements for a permit to carry a concealed gun in public.

Sheriff Heath Taylor says he and his deputies were concerned there would be more gun-related incidents at homes and on the road. His message to Alabamians: assume, no matter where you are, someone is carrying a weapon.

Russell County Sheriff believes the recent weekend shooting at a Popeyes could have been stopped if permits were still required for a concealed gun in public.

“A person was stopped by one of my deputies. They were in possession of a weapon they didn’t have a permit uh the deputies had to let him go, was not able to take the weapon within a week, somebody was shot that same person shot somebody else with the weapon that he had a week,” Sheriff Heath Taylor said.

Last year, Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill allowing people in Alabama to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Sheriff Heath Taylor says this new law has already created new challenges.

“And my biggest issue with this whole law is that we’re having to deal with now is the mentally ill people who have had, you know, mental episodes in their history who has a propensity to either get angry or have violent out outrages or have episodes where they’re not thinking rationally,” Sheriff Heath Taylor said.

He says incidents have already occurred where someone suffering from mental illness had possession of a firearm. Sheriff Taylor said last year, thousands were denied a pistol permit because of mental illness.

“Those 6,000 people who have mental health issues, we’re gonna put a gun in their car or strap it to their side because they ask to do it and was denied our issue that we had here last week was the same circumstance he had applied to have a permit and was denied,” Sheriff Heath Taylor said.

That incident was connected to deputy-involved shooting that left a resident dead. Sheriff Taylor says the induvial pointed a gun at law enforcement and was shot as a result. A previous law enforcement employee who did not want to be identified says permits carry a purpose.

“We need the permits, and the only people that should be able to conceal carrying our folks that have went through the process of obtaining a permit.”