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MCSO answers common questions regarding permitless carry

Special to the Enquirer

As of Jan. 1, eligible Alabamians are allowed to carry firearms without having to purchase a license from the state. Permitless carry, also called constitutional carry, was among the more contentious issues during the 2022 regular legislative session. Once HB 272 was passed, it did away with certain laws, most notably those requiring persons to buy a permit to carry a weapon concealed in their vehicle or on their person. It also changed the definition of a shotgun to comply with technological advancements in shotgun design. The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office has received numerous inquiries about how this new law will affect our citizens. Here are a few common questions and answers that we are providing to our citizens.

Who can carry

The new law does not change who is allowed to possess and carry a weapon; it only removed the requirement to have a permit. Any person over 18 who has not been convicted of a violent crime — including misdemeanor domestic violence — has not been adjudicated mentally deficient and does not currently have a protective order against them may carry a concealed weapon in Alabama. The new law also changed language in Alabama’s existing code, which clarifies that the mere possession or carrying of a firearm in a public place cannot be construed as a crime. Only if a person is “brandishing” a firearm can they be arrested or charged with disorderly conduct. Brandishing is defined as “waving, flourishing, displaying or holding of an item in a manner that is threatening or would appear threatening to a reasonable person, with or without explicit verbal threat, or in a wanton or reckless manner.”

Where you can carry

Federal law prohibits carrying on several locations, such as military bases, federal courthouses, federal law enforcement offices, and others; those remain restricted whether or not you have a permit. In Alabama, a person may not carry a concealed weapon in police departments, sheriff’s offices, courthouses, courthouse annexes, prisons, jails, psychiatric facilities, drug treatment facilities and halfway houses. A person without a permit may not carry a concealed weapon on private property without the owner’s express permission. However, this falls under trespassing law, meaning you could only be charged with trespassing for refusing to leave a business or property after being asked by the owner.

Permits

The new law has not done away with permits. Any applicable person can still obtain a concealed weapons permit from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office. In fact, for those who regularly travel, it may be more advantageous to maintain a permit to avoid legal issues when traveling to other states. The funds from permit sales support equipment, training and the office’s SRO program.

Reciprocity

With the exception of Florida, every neighboring state with Alabama also has permitless carry laws. Some exceptions exist in each state, so you should always research a state’s gun laws before traveling there while armed. Most states that do not have permitless carry laws recognize Alabama permits as valid, known as reciprocity. Currently, 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. South Carolina is the only southern state not to share reciprocity with Alabama. Citizens must have an Alabama pistol permit if required by that specific state. Always study state laws before traveling with a weapon.

Police interaction

Under the new law, a law enforcement officer may relieve a person of their weapon if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that the person has committed or is planning to commit a crime. The officer may also relieve a person of their weapon if the person presents a threat to themselves, the officer or the public. Under the previous rules, citizens were not compelled to inform police if they had a weapon in their vehicle or on their person. However, the new law does require the disclosure of that information if asked by an officer. A person is also prohibited from touching their weapon during the course of a police interaction unless otherwise directed by police.

For more information, contact the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office at 256-351-4800 or www.morgancountysheriffal.gov

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