This week, Senate Bill 262 passed favorably out of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee by an 8 to 1 vote margin. Senate Bill 262 and House Bill 328 are identical pieces of NRA-backed, pro-gun legislation that have been introduced in the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. SB 262 was introduced by state Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and HB 328 was introduced by state Representative Ed Henry (R-Hartselle). These identical measures would repeal Alabama’s duplicative and intrusive pistol registration process and would amend Alabama’s unduly restrictive minor possession of pistols law.
SB 262 and HB 328 seek to remedy Alabama’s overzealous restriction of the possession of pistols by providing that an individual under the age of 18 may lawfully possess a pistol only if they have permission from their parent or legal guardian and:
- The minor is in the presence of an individual who is over the age of 18;
- The minor is on private property and has permission from the lawful owner or possessor of the premises;
- The minor is in the presence of a licensed or accredited gun safety instructor; or
- The pistol is being used for hunting, trapping, target shooting, competing in a firearm competition, or firearm or hunting training or instruction.
Alabama is one of the only states that enforces an absolute prohibition on the transfer of pistols to minors. As a result, a person can be held criminally liable for taking their son or daughter to the shooting range to teach them proper firearm safety. Boy Scouts cannot legally train or qualify for the Shooting Sports Outstanding Achievement Award. No exception exists for competition shooting, shooting sports or hunting.
All contiguous states currently permit minors to possess handguns under similarly restrictive circumstances. This legislation is not intended to, nor will it permit minors to lawfully purchase firearms. The goal of this legislation is simply to afford parents the opportunity to lawfully teach responsible firearm safety and use.
These bills also seek to repeal Alabama’s pistol registration scheme which represents an unnecessarily duplicative and burdensome intrusion on law-abiding gun owners. There is no indication that the registration scheme serves any additional purpose apart from the record-keeping already required under federal law. Furthermore, there is no indication that record-keeping reduces crime or furthers a public safety objective. In fact, it seems that the only practical effect of Alabama’s pistol registration process is the additional burden it places on firearm dealers and purchasers.
Under current law, a licensed firearm dealer is required to maintain a record of all pistol purchases. This record, which is to be filled out in triplicate, requires the seller to document “the caliber, make, model, and manufacturer’s number,” as well as the purchaser’s “name, address, occupation, color, and place of birth.” A copy of the registration form is retained by the firearm dealer, and the other two copies must be sent to the Secretary of State and chief law enforcement officer in the dealer’s municipality or county, respectively. Alabama is one of only a handful of states that require pistol registration.