Law enforcement proposes substitute gun bill

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fewer than 1 percent of the pistol permits sought in Escambia County are denied — but Sheriff Grover Smith and other law enforcement officials believe they need to retain that discretion to protect the citizens in their counties.

Smith and other law enforcement officials on Tuesday presented to state lawmakers a revised version of a gun control bill that would take away that discretion, among other provisions.

Smith, who is also president of the Alabama Sheriff’s Association, said officials with the Sheriff’s Association, District Attorney’s Association, County Commission Association and Police Chiefs Association have joined forces to draft a substitute bill.

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“We are proposing a substitute people that would preserve many of the laws that have seen on the books for good reasons,”  Smith said. “A lot of things in the original bill aren’t thought through and we are begging them to slow down. The original bill would change our world dramatically. It would hinder us in how we can protect the people we are sworn to protect.”

Escambia County commissioners agreed Monday to adopt a resolution in support of Smith’s views on Senate Bill 286.

The approval of the resolution by the commission was further confirmation of Smith’s view of the proposed Senate Bill 286.

Chief Deputy Mike Lambert said approximately 3,000 pistol permits are issued annually by the Sheriff’s Department — with less than 1 percent of the applications made denied.

“The denial of a pistol permit is based on law that would prohibit the issuance of that permit,” Lambert said. “Those denials could be because of a law that prohibits a felon to carry a gun or similar restrictions. Last year we denied less than 10 applications for a permit.”

Lambert said neighboring counties issue far more permits than Escambia County with Mobile County issuing 36,000 permits and Baldwin County issuing 14,000 permits annually. “Since December 2012, we have issued 270 new permits,” Lambert said. “For us, that’s a bunch.”

Smith said the substitute bill proposed by officials this week would take care of the concerns being raised by law enforcement officials across the state.

“Who’s going to lose if we approach this one issue at a time?” Smith said. “No sheriff should deny a permit unless they have a valid public safety reason to do so. Even a person who is denied should have a meaningful way to appeal a sheriff’s decision. The substitute bill would allow that possibility.”