On March 7, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and the Mobile Police Department teamed up to shoot a video showcasing both departments’ opposition to Alabama Senate Bill 354.
The video depicts deputies pulling over a car of teenage joyriders who have two loaded pistols in plain sight.
After telling the officers “they just have the guns to look cool,” the deputies send the teens on their way without incident.
Sheriff Sam Cochran said, if passed, the bill would make situations like this a reality for law enforcement officials across the state.
The verbiage in the bill, which was introduced by State Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, reads, “lawfully carrying a firearm under certain conditions does not, in and of itself, constitute the crime of disorderly conduct.”
The bill would also authorize a person to carry a pistol in his or her vehicle and on certain property without a concealed pistol permit.
“It would allow anybody to carry a loaded pistol in their vehicle without any background check,” Cochran said. “It’s very dangerous for officers to be confronting people sitting in vehicles with loaded pistols when there’s no action they can take.”
Under current law, Alabama residents are required to obtain a concealed carry permit from one of the state’s 67 sheriff’s offices in order to keep a loaded weapon in their vehicle.
More than 60 Alabama sheriffs and number police chiefs have publicly opposed the bill, but the Alabama Sheriff’s Association has yet to issue a position as a whole.
When Beason introduced the bill, he cited Second Amendment rights as the reason.
Cochran, a self-professed supporter of the Second Amendment, said public safety is his only concern.
“People are shrouding this as if it’s a Second Amendment issue and it’s not,” Cochran said. “This isn’t about the federal government taking away rights. These laws have been on the books for 80 years, and we don’t want to change what’s not broken.”
According to Cochran, there are nearly 42,000 pistols permit holders in Mobile County, and of those that apply, only a handful are denied a permit each year.
“(Under the proposed law), if I deny someone a pistol permit for legal reasons, they can legally leave out and drive around with a loaded pistol in their vehicle,” he said. “This is an opportunity for responsible gun owners to continue to be responsible.”
Current pistol permit holders have an assurance that other members among them have gone through a similar background check, which makes sure they’re law-abiding citizens.
Cochran said doing away with background checks removes that assurance and increases the risk gun crime in the future.
“We want to make sure we don’t let laws like these create a bad situation that results in the pendulum swinging back the other way,” Cochran said. “We want to bring this to the attention of our citizens and let them know what some of these senators are trying to pass.”