I’ve often written about the continuing threat to liberty represented by progressives determined to disarm the law-abiding, while doing nothing to disarm criminals. This is a never-ending threat because progressives know they can never achieve their ultimate, utopian aims as long as citizens are allowed to be citizens rather than subjects.
Unfortunately, this particular faction is not the only threat to the Second Amendment. Often the police are no less dangerous to liberty. It’s interesting to note that rank and file police officers tend to be fully supportive of the Second Amendment, but many of their administrators, particularly those in big cities, are not. Police chiefs in such places don’t get—or keep–their jobs without being willing to carry the political water of those—progressives—that hired them. The same is true of Sheriffs–elected officials. They tend to reflect the political realities of the counties that elected them.
Texas provides an excellent example. While most of the state is clearly conservative, its major cities are Democrat run. In the 2016 election, the state went for Donald Trump, but the major cities voted for Hillary Clinton. One would also think Alabama a predominantly conservative state, but political leanings are not the only factor in preserving liberty. Money is always a powerful behavior and ideology modifier, for citizens and for sheriffs, as AL.com reports:
The battle over SB24 just keeps getting stranger. The legislation introduced by Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) removes the requirement for Alabamians to obtain a license before carrying a concealed pistol. The Alabama Sheriffs Association doesn’t want to change a thing.
The legislation refers to “constitutional carry,” a movement gaining ground across the nation. Any law abiding citizen without disqualifies such as felony convictions, may carry concealed handguns without any state-issued permit. However, if they wish to take advantage of reciprocity agreements with other states, they need a permit.
Plenty of Alabama’s legislators agree that law-abiding Alabamians shouldn’t be forced to secure a license and pay a fee to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Twelve states already allow individuals to carry concealed firearms without a permit, and a few of them might surprise you. Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine all have less restrictive concealed carry laws than Alabama.
So far, so good. What’s the problem?
A number of sheriffs have argued that the current law improves safety for law enforcement–a consideration that many legislators and Alabamians take seriously. Streamlining and reducing or eliminating the permit fees across the state makes sense as a potential compromise.
This is a common argument: if law enforcement knows who is carrying concealed weapons and has vetted them before granting permission for them to exercise the Second Amendment rights, law enforcement is safer. This is nonsense, and any competent law enforcement officer knows it. The citizens willing to undergo training, testing, and pay fees are, by definition, law-abiding. They didn’t pose any threat to law enforcement or anyone else before they applied for a license, nor do they pose such threat thereafter. They will likewise pose no threat if they are not required to obtain a license. The people that pose a threat are criminals, who by their very nature do not obey the law. A constitutional carry law will not affect them in the least. They carried concealed weapons as they pleased, and without the knowledge of the police, before the law was passed and they’ll do the same afterward. Every police officer has to assume that everyone is armed, and they’re universally trained to make that assumption.
A recent internal email suggests that the Sheriffs Association isn’t necessarily negotiating in good faith. An email from [Alabama Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Bobby] Timmons called on sheriffs to contact their legislators ‘if you value your permit fund.’ He specifically warned against a compromise that would clearly benefit Alabama’s gun owners. ‘The National Rifle Association WILL return next time the Legislature meets to bring back Jabo [Waggoner’s] ‘any county bill’ and will push for uniform — one cost — statewide permit fee…if any fee at all!
Let’s review: the sheriff’s argument is concealed carry licenses make law enforcement safer, but that’s certainly not the argument their association’s executive director is making. Obviously, it’s all about money. It’s also interesting to note that Alabama sheriffs can charge pretty much whatever they want for carry permits; there is no statute-defined consistent fee across the state. That’s an excellent opportunity for graft and corruption, as AL.com points out in another article:
[Former NRA national president Jim] Porter responded to Timmons’s shot with one of his own, a letter to Timmons dated March 10, 2017. ‘Your email…suggests that the right to keep and bear arms is just a voluntary privilege provided by the state, and like other privileges, should come with a monetary fee,’ wrote Porter. ‘I could not disagree more.’
Porter assured Timmons ‘that NRA’s support of Senate Bill 24 will not waiver as this session proceeds.’ He also asked Timmons to ‘keep things respectful and courteous.
AL.com columnist Cameron Smith notes:
Porter and Hale might not be popular with the Alabama Sheriffs Association, but you can bet they’re heroes to gun enthusiasts and hunters throughout Alabama. I, for one, am glad my sheriff in Jefferson County doesn’t look at my Second Amendment exercise as a funding opportunity. I know he’s got a tough job keeping our community safe, and I appreciate him putting a premium on my constitutional rights. I’d like to think he’s not alone among Alabama’s sheriffs.
At a minimum, Alabamians across the state should expect a consistent pistol permit fee limited to the administrative costs of the background check and permit issue. The idea that Alabama burdens a constitutional right unevenly within the state is unacceptable whether we have a permit requirement or not.
In a state where voters support law enforcement as well as the Second Amendment, Alabama legislators are going to have a tough time finding cover after these opening shots on SB24.
All law enforcement officers, including sheriffs, take an oath to uphold the Constitution and the law. It appears, at least in Alabama, the sheriffs don’t take that oath seriously, at least not when there is money to be made by denying citizens a fundamental right. Smith is correct. It’s up to Alabama legislators to restore respect for the law, and the Constitution.