Sheriffs worry legislation will end discretion on firearms permits
by Rachael Griffin
Feb 14, 2013 | 7213 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
(Photo: Seth Wenig/Associated Press/File)
(Photo: Seth Wenig/Associated Press/File)
HOOVER — Larry Amerson, Calhoun County sheriff and president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, voiced concerns Wednesday that proposed legislation would take away Alabama sheriffs’ discretion to issue concealed-carry permits for firearms.

Amerson spoke to news media regarding Alabama sheriffs’ apprehensions over two bills introduced in the state Legislature last week, one in the House of Representatives and the other in the Senate. Both make it easier for Alabama residents to have access to firearms.

“These bills will take away the authority of your sheriff to perform his or her duty and to investigate those applying for pistol permits,” Amerson said.

Amerson said a majority of people applying for pistol permits are issued one in a short period of time and are law-abiding citizens who use those guns correctly. However, the sheriffs are concerned that without the ability to use their discretion, more permits may end up in the hands of people who are mentally ill and have violent tendencies.

A bill introduced by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale and sponsored by President Pro Tem Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, states a sheriff shall issue or renew a license for one- to five-year increments as requested by the person seeking the license.

The bill would remove a line from current law saying “the sheriff may revoke a license upon proof that the licensee is not a proper person to be licensed.”

Attempts to reach Beason and Marsh on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Beason’s bill will also allow non-U.S. citizens to apply for concealed carry permits and allow firearms to be present during a public demonstration.

“These bills are being proposed without any discussion with people who deal with these issues every day,” Amerson said.

Amerson said the legislation will remove reasonable steps sheriffs take to ensure people’s safety. During his tenure as sheriff, Amerson said, he’s routinely dealt with people he knows are mentally ill and violent applying for pistol permits, which he refuses to issue. The loopholes created in the bills will make it legal for these people to have permits and own guns, Amerson said.

Amerson said another bill, proposed by Rep. Todd Greeson, R-Ider, also takes away the use of sheriffs’ discretion by excluding a line from Alabama Code allowing sheriffs to decide whether a person is suitable to obtain a pistol permit.

Greeson’s bill also authorizes a person to carry a pistol in a vehicle without a permit, allows a person to carry a concealed pistol on another person’s property and makes it lawful for a person to carry a pistol at a public demonstration.

Attempts to reach Greeson Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Anniston interim police Chief Shane Denham said he’s also wary of the bills.

“A lot of these laws have effects that are not seen. They have unintended consequences,” Denham said by phone Wednesday.

Denham said he’s unsure why the bill wants to allow non-U.S. citizens to obtain pistol permits and permit guns at a demonstration. Allowing guns at a public demonstration is not a good idea, he said, because he feels demonstrations usually have an emotional aspect to begin with.

Amerson said he hopes the public will be more aware of these bills and lawmakers will ask advice from law enforcement officials regarding these issues.

“These kinds of legislative efforts are putting people at risk” Amerson said. “It’s the people that are sworn to uphold the constitution of our nation and our state, we see these weaknesses and we are urging our legislature to listen.”

Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.

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