Sheriff: New gun law changes ‘vast’

Published 9:34pm Friday, August 2, 2013

Alabama gun owners may not count the changes made by a newly implemented gun law, but law enforcement officials are counting it as a victory of sorts.

Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith said the law that went into effect on Thursday, won’t have a huge impact on the way officers do their job, but gun owners will notice a number of changes in what they can and cannot do with their weapons.

“This bill changes gun law in a vast number of ways,” Smith said. “But how it effects us as we go about our day-to-day business is not that big a deal.”

Smith said the new law allows gun owners who have a permit issued by his office to be able to publicly display their weapons.

“The bill clearly says you can walk up and down the sidewalk with a pistol on your side,” Smith said. “But, it’s when you take it on the property of others or into a building or in a car that puts you in a spot where you can get crossways with law enforcement.”

Under the new law, gun owners who have been issued a permit by local law enforcement agencies in the state may carry a weapon in their vehicle only under certain conditions, Smith said.

“A pistol can be carried in your vehicle only if it is unloaded and locked up, out of the reach of the driver or passenger,” Smith said. “That means it can be in the trunk of a car; in the toolbox of a pickup truck or in a lock-box in the back of an SUV. The gun cannot be in the glove compartment or a console of any vehicle. That location just won’t meet the rules of the law. It has to be unloaded in all of those cases.”

Smith said there are parts of the law that remain the same when it comes to guns near schools.

“This doesn’t change the Federal law prohibiting firearms on school property,” Smith said. “It is a felony to have a gun on school property or even within 1,000 of school property whether you have a permit or not.”

Bill 286, which was signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley and became enforceable Aug. 1, states that employees cannot be punished or reprimanded by bosses or supervisors of their job if they have a firearm locked in their vehicle.

“The whole point of the law is to save lives and prevent injuries,” Smith said. “That’s always been our goal. And, we will uphold this law as well.”

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