Beginning Jan. 1, Alabama residents will not be required to obtain permits to carry concealed handguns in most places in the state.
After lengthy debate during the 2022 legislative session, Gov. Kay Ivey signed House Bill 272 in March, putting Alabama on track to become a permitless carry state in 2023.
“It guarantees to the citizens of Alabama the right to carry without having to pay a fee to fulfill their constitutional rights,” said Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, who sponsored the bill in the state Senate.
The law means people won’t need to purchase a permit to carry handguns in their vehicles. The National Rifle Association-backed bill does, however, list a number of areas where handguns are still prohibited, including police stations, prisons and jails, mental health facilities, courthouses, athletic events and other areas where state or federal laws prohibit firearms.
Private business and property owners will still have the right to ask people carrying weapons to leave the premises, and if they refuse, Allen said, police may be called for trespassing.
Support for the permitless carry bill was helped by a 2021 law. It created a prohibited persons database that allows law enforcement officers to view a comprehensive list of all Alabamians prohibited from carrying handguns. That database became operational in the fall.
Still, many Alabama sheriffs opposed the law change, saying the screening process required in getting a permit makes the public more safe. They have also argued for years that they need the revenue permits produce. Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama, said pistol permits generate an estimated $12 million to $14 million each year statewide.
Pistol permits will still be available for purchase through sheriff’s offices, and may be necessary if traveling out of state. According to the United States Concealed Carry Association, Alabama permits are recognized by Mississippi, Georgia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, North Carolina and Indiana. If traveling to another state, one would have to obtain a permit recognized by that specific state.
Brasfield said that there has already been a significant loss in permit revenue this year as citizens became aware of the new law. He said permit revenue for 2022 will likely be 30% less than it was in 2021, which amounts to a decrease of about $3.5 million.
The 2022 bill also created a grant program to allow counties and sheriffs to receive money to offset their losses from permit sales, but some believe the program cannot fully address the issue.
“It’s not a long-term solution,” Alabama Sheriffs Association President and Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told Alabama Daily News.
According to Brasfield, the program would allow $5 million in grants to be given in the first year but only $2 million the following year, and the grants would be available only for three years.
“We believe the reimbursement should continue and, of course, based on our research, a reduction in the fund to $2 million would be insufficient,” Brasfield said.
Brasfield also said the program would use 2022 as the base year to measure how much grant money is needed to make up the difference in revenue for the following years. He said not using 2021 as the base year is a mistake because 2022 has already seen a significant decrease in revenue from pistol permits.
“Hopefully there will be a way that we can work with the legislature … and see if we can establish an increase in the amount, and then of course extend its life beyond just the few years that’s currently in the legislation,” Jones said.
Allen said he was not aware of any efforts to revise the grant program but that lawmakers would know more when they convene in March.