The first is how the state arrived at such a point that it needed to pass a gun law during its 2013 legislative session. December’s Newtown school massacre revved up the gun debate among advocates for stricter controls on possessing a firearm and promoters of an anything-goes interpretation of the Second Amendment. Once that happened, it was only a matter of time before an Alabama legislator played the “cold, dead hands” gun card.
Alabama had just the man for the job, state Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale. Under the premise of making “sure the right of law-abiding citizens to carry a firearm and defend their families is clear,” Beason promoted a bill that, among other things, allowed guns wider access on private property and on the hips of Alabamians who want the world to see they are packing heat in their holster.
The measure was opposed by business interests worried that firearms inside vehicles in employer parking lots could result in unnecessary violence. The measure was opposed by the state’s sheriffs concerned that more weapons could wind up in the hands of the mentally unstable.
None of that mattered to the Legislature and the governor. Playing on Alabamians’ fears of an intrusive federal government that would confiscate firearms is never a losing strategy in Montgomery.
Truism No. 2 gets to the heart of Alabama’s political system.
The 1901 Constitution puts tremendous power in the hands of 140 state senators and representatives, even on matters of a purely local nature. It’s why we call the Alabama Legislature the world’s largest city council.
The 1901 Constitution’s authors preferred to influence the state Capitol, as opposed to having to control hundreds of county and city governments. With the state’s new gun law, Montgomery once again pressed down on local governments.
Before Thursday, many Alabama cities banned openly carrying firearms through municipal ordinances. Those local laws were wiped off the books in 2013 by a governor and Legislature that claim to be conservative. In truth, this gun law is the product politicians acting like extremists who have little respect for grassroots government.