There are several changes to the laws:
•The state is now a “shall issue” state when it comes to concealed-carry pistol permits. Previously, approval of an application for a permit was left to the sole discretion of the county’s sheriffs. Now, each sheriff must issue a permit or provide written cause for a denial. That was a move that the Alabama Sheriff’s Association didn’t oppose, according to Winston County Sheriff Rick Harris.
“It took the arbitrary part out of the process,” Harris said. “We’re fine with providing someone with a written reason for denying the application, if that is necessary.”
•Concealed-carry permits can now be issued for up to five years at a time, instead of requiring the traditional annual renewal. The sheriff’s office may multiply the fee per year the permit is valid. The annual fee in Walker and Winston counties is $15 per year.
•Persons in the state without a concealed-carry permit who carry their guns open, can now carry their guns in their cars as long as the gun is unloaded and in the trunk or a locked, fixed compartment in the car outside of the reach of the driver and passengers. Previously, according to Harris, that was a discrepancy in the law that allows individuals to carry the weapon open, but they were not legally allowed to transport the weapon in their vehicle. Although the offense was often overlooked if the weapon was placed in the trunk, this rectifies the issue legally. Handguns carried in the open or concealed must be secured in a holster and on the body of the person carrying it.
•Citizens now have the right to carry a legal weapon in their vehicle to work, as long as that weapon remains in their vehicle and is not visible from the outside. It also allows hunters to carry their hunting rifles in the vehicles to work, as long as they are unloaded and remain in the vehicle. Employees do not have the right to carry the gun into a business or onto a jobsite if the employer or owner of the business prohibits it.
“Any business is private property, so you have to honor the wishes of the owner,” Harris said. “If you have a permit, you can carry most anywhere unless the sign or owner says you can’t.”
•The new law also grants immunity to business owners who allow guns on their property and releases the owner from any liability caused by that gun. The person carrying the gun retains sole liability for his or her actions.
There have been some questions about the law, including whether the “parking lot” rule extends to schools. Although the law isn’t clear, Harris said he believes the federal law banning guns on school property would take precedence over any state law so guns would still not be allowed on school property, even in vehicles. Guns are also still banned in government buildings, mental health facilities and any sporting event not related to guns.