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Sheriff, House member clash over ending Alabama gun permits

December 20, 2021 GMT

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A southwest Alabama sheriff and a state House member are again jousting over whether the state should abolish permits to carry concealed handguns.

AL.com reports that Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran spoke before the Mobile County Commission last week endorsing a resolution to keep permits. But state Rep. Shane Stringer, a Citronelle Republican who plans to sponsor a bill in next year’s legislative session abolishing the state’s permit requirement, urged commissioners to reject the resolution. A vote on the resolution could come Dec. 28.

Stringer is a former Mobile County sheriff’s captain who was fired by Cochran because the two disagree on gun permits. Stringer argues for “constitutional carry,” the view that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars states from requiring permits or collecting fees for people to carry guns.

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Most sheriffs statewide lobbied against a similar bill last year. Cochran argues the permit process is akin to a background check, noting Mobile County turned down 700 of 63,000 applicants for a concealed weapons permit last year over concerns about an applicant’s criminal history.

“There are those who do not need to be carrying concealed weapons in our restaurants, clubs and sports bars,” Cochran told the commission. “The biggest thing is safety of our citizens and officers.”

Stringer says a database being developed by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will monitor for people who can’t legally possess a gun because of a criminal conviction or a finding of mental illness by a court.

Stringer said the new system will “give law enforcement the tools they need to take the criminals off the street.”

The database was mandated by lawmakers last year when they allowed people to buy a lifetime pistol permit for $300.

Stringer argues sheriffs are trying to hold onto the fees that come with concealed carry permits, but says people shouldn’t have to pay to exercise a constitutional right.

“I don’t think we should be taxing people for carrying a gun,” Stringer said.

He said some gun owners will still buy a permit in Alabama so they will be allowed to travel to other states that require them.

AL.com reports the dispute spilled over to the sheriff’s office Facebook page, which said Stringer’s proposal would lead to the “wild west” and urged people to call his statehouse office to oppose it. That post attracted many responses from gun rights proponents disagreeing with Cochran’s position.