FAIRHOPE — A state law that went into effect Jan. 1 allows residents to carry concealed pistols without a permit, but some restrictions remain for Alabama gun owners, local law enforcement …
FAIRHOPE — A state law that went into effect Jan. 1 allows residents to carry concealed pistols without a permit, but some restrictions remain for Alabama gun owners, local law enforcement officials said.
Fairhope police and representatives from the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office and Baldwin County District Attorney's Office spoke with residents Thursday, Jan. 19, about the new law. More than 100 people took part in the meeting at the Fairhope Civic Center.
Act 2022-133 was passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey earlier this year. The act removes the requirement that people have a permit issued by the county sheriff to carry a concealed pistol in public.
Fairhope Police Chief Stephanie Hollinghead said residents have been contacting law enforcement with questions about the law.
"We've been getting a lot of inquiries about what the new law means," Hollinghead told the audience. "What can we do? What can we not do? What's changed? That's what we're hoping to accomplish here tonight, is to answer any questions that y'all may have pertaining to any of the changes."
Sheriff's Office Capt. Andre Reid, commander of Baldwin County Criminal Investigation Division, said the law allows Alabama residents who can legally own a gun to carry a concealed handgun on their person or to have a weapon in their car without buying a pistol permit.
"You don't necessarily need a pistol permit as long as you're in the state of Alabama and you're a resident here in the state of Alabama," Reid said. "You can carry a firearm on your person, concealed, or in your vehicle and for the most part you don't need one.
Guns, however, still cannot be carried in some places, Reid said.
"We're talking about pistol permits, not when and where you can take a firearm," Reid said. "So, government buildings, police stations, courthouses, schools and school events. Those places that have historically been off limits are still off limits."
Business operators can also restrict people from carrying guns in their establishments.
"This new law doesn't mean that just because you can carry a pistol without a permit doesn't mean you can suddenly take them onto private property, a private business without their permission," Reid said. "That's hasn't changed."
Reid said that while the law allows people to have a gun in their car without a permit, the act sets rules for vehicle occupants with a gun who are stopped by police.
"This is new for everyone. If you are carrying a concealed firearm in your vehicle and an officer asks, that's key if an officer asks you if you are carrying a firearm, you have to tell them," Reid said. "It may be as part of whatever investigation they're carrying on or if it's for their own safety. That's up to that individual officer."
Officers can also check a gun's serial number to determine if it has been stolen and to establish whether the owner is allowed to have a pistol, Reid said.
A gun owner also cannot touch his pistol during a traffic stop unless told to by the police officer, Reid said.
While Alabama residents do not have to have a permit to have a pistol in their car, Florida still requires permits for weapons in a vehicle, Reid said.
He said an Alabama pistol permit will allow state residents to carry a handgun in their car in Florida. Anyone without a permit who is caught with a gun in his or her car in Florida, however, can be convicted of a felony, Reid said.
Patrick Doggett, senior trial attorney with the Baldwin County District Attorney's Office, said prosecutors and law enforcement officers are still studying the law. He said officials do want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but not people who are allowed to carry weapons.
"The goal of prosecution and law enforcement is not to pick on law-abiding citizens. Law abiding citizens, anyone with a pistol permit, you've got one of those, it's not affecting you one bit," Doggett said. "What it could affect is the ability to uncover other crimes. That's a little bit of what we're going to have to shake out going forward because good police work, which we have here in Fairhope and throughout the county with the sheriff's department is probable cause for one crime and one set of facts can lead to other crimes."