Alabama Governor Robert Bentley last week signed a new omnibus firearms law that expands access to and the ability to carry guns in Alabama, which has the third highest rate of gun violence in the country. Among other provisions, the new law denies employers the right to prohibit employees from bringing loaded handguns onto company property and makes it easier for people in Alabama to obtain concealed carry permits.
On May 20, the last day of Alabama’s legislative session, the House voted 73-28 to approve a conference committee version of the firearms bill, SB 286. The governor signed it the next day.
The Business Council of Alabama opposed the bill, which allows employees to keep loaded handguns in their cars while parked at work. The council said that forcing business owners to allow employees to bring weapons onto company property infringes on the property rights of business owners and is a safety and liability concern. Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, noted that many companies that Alabama spent a lot of money to recruit prohibit firearms on company property for security reasons. Under the new law, employers do not have the right to restrict dangerous weapons from being brought onto their property, but the law does provide businesses legal immunity from liability for workplace shootings.
Alabama sheriffs opposed the initial bill because it allowed people to transport a loaded pistol in a vehicle without a permit, but a last-minute compromise requiring a concealed carry permit to transport a loaded pistol (but not an unloaded handgun) in a car won the sheriffs’ support. No concealed carry permit is needed to carry an unloaded rifle or shotgun in a vehicle.
The new law expands access to concealed carry permits in several ways. It restricts sheriffs’ ability to deny concealed carry permits by shifting from a “may issue” to a “shall issue” standard for permit applications and by prohibiting sheriffs from denying permits unless they have “documented, specific actions of the person.” The new law also allows for all other valid state-issued permits to carry a concealed firearm to be recognized in Alabama, requires sheriffs to process permit applications within 30 days, allows for appeal of a permit denial, and makes a permit to carry a concealed pistol good for up to five years.
The NRA supported the bill and described its passage as a “major victory” for gun owners.