Alabama Sheriffs push to keep gun laws that keep residents safe
RUSSELL COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - Dozens of sheriffs from across the state of Alabama, some traveling as far as 200 miles, met in Russell County to discuss something they've been pushing for years: gun laws and how residents obtain concealed carry permits.
This comes about three weeks after John "Rusty" Houser from the Chattahoochee Valley opened fire in a Louisiana theater, killing two with a gun he legally purchased in Phenix City, despite known mental health issues.
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor talked a lot about how the gun laws have changed in just the past two years.
Before 2013, Alabama was a "may" state, meaning if you tried to get a pistol permit, the sheriff may allow you to get one.
But in 2013 they changed to laws to a "shall" state, meaning if you come in for a pistol permit, their office shall issue a permit as long as there aren't certain things like negative reports on your background check.
A lot the sheriffs agree this takes most of the discretion out of their hands.
"That goes beyond just running a background check, and seeing who has a felony in their background. We know things the computer can't tell us, we know things about our citizens, we know whose going through a divorce, we know who's in a bad time, who maybe drinking too much who maybe abusive but hasn't necessarily crossed the line of a crime," Sheriff Taylor said.
Rusty Houser was denied a permit back in 2006 because of a domestic violence report and an arson arrest from about a decade prior. Sheriff Taylor says those same circumstances wouldn't stop him from getting a permit today because they can't use older reports of charges without convictions to deny pistol permits, and they don't have the discretion they used to with issuing permits like they did before 2013.
Inside Alabama's state legislature, a proposed law will make it easier to carry loaded weapons.
The proposed legislation will be much like in the state of Georgia, where you can carry a weapon inside your car without a concealed carry permit as it acts as an extension of your home.
Currently in Alabama, you can carry a weapon in your car but it has to be unloaded in a secured container that is not accessible to anyone in the passenger compartment.
"The vehicle is an extension of your home and we submit to you that when you leave the comfort of your home, you're no longer at hour home. If you travel 100 miles across the state of Alabama, that's not your home. And you shouldn't have the same rights in that vehicle that you have at your home," Sheriff Taylor said.
Sheriff Taylor emphasizes they aren't trying to impose on residents Second Amendment rights to bear arms, but they're suggesting resident have a permit to carry a gun in their cars for the safety of others.
They also talked about the fact that funding for mental health across the state and in the prison systems is down to ten percent of what it was three decades ago.
They add the common thread for more shootings across the county comes down to mental health issues, with studies saying there are more people in county jails today that are mentally ill than there are in mental health facilities, but the state continues to slash public safety as they're currently fighting to perfect a budget.
These same legislators are the ones these sheriff's are lobbying to so they can keep the laws in place.
Copyright WTVM 2015. All rights reserved.