Radical changes to Alabama’s gun laws have caused both praise and controversy in the state and, more specifically, at the University of West Alabama.
Taking effect on Aug. 1, the new changes to Alabama’s gun laws include all aspects of legally carrying weapons. Changes were made to the laws concerning concealed carrying and open carrying of pistols, the approval of pistol permits and the age required for someone to obtain a concealed carry permit.
Despite the ninety-one page document that explains the new laws, there are a few specific changes that have gotten the most attention. By law, 18-year-olds are now allowed to apply for a concealed carry permit. If granted, the Alabama resident is still not allowed to buy weapons from a licensed dealer.
“I think that it is crazy that an 18 year old can possess a gun that the federal law does not even allow them to use,” said Jeff Manuel, UWA police chief.
This aspect of the new laws is one that has many Alabama residents concerned. Many 18-year-olds are not responsible enough to own and carry a concealed pistol, according to Manuel. Not everyone, however, agrees with him.
“I think that it is perfectly fine that an 18-year-old can carry a concealed weapon because they are actually an adult,” said Cody Rogers, a freshman majoring in industrial maintenance.
Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin ensures the residents of his county are mature enough to carry a pistol. He asks each applicant if they know when they can legally use their weapon before they are given the permit.
Many more new changes to Alabama’s gun laws have been made. They state that individuals are allowed to carry a pistol without a permit if it is not concealed. According to Manuel, this change is controversial because many people are not comfortable with the open carrying of a weapon. He said acting on this law is not a good idea because it could potentially make an individual the first target of a shooting.
Section 6(a) of the new law states that concealed weapons may be carried at athletic events, even if they are sponsored by schools or universities. Because of the way this law is worded, it is a cause for concern for the security and campus police at UWA.
As a precaution, UWA is planning to have armed guards, a barrier gate and a sign banning all weapons for each athletic event, according to Manuel. This will clarify any confusion on whether or not an attendant is allowed to bring a weapon into an event.
The new Alabama gun laws will now allow all employees to keep their guns hidden in their cars at their workplace. Before the new law, Alabama employers were able to ban firearms from the property entirely. Many residents all over the state believe that this law should also apply to schools and universities.
“I think that responsible students with concealed carry permits should be allowed to carry their guns in their vehicles on campus,” said Graham Berry, a senior majoring in biology. “Generally speaking, if someone is responsible enough to have a concealed carry permit, they are not the type of student that would misuse that kind of privilege.”
According to Manuel, he is supportive of this new change in the law that allows traveling employees to carry pistols to their workplace if they feel that it is necessary. However, it does not mean that this new rule applies to the students and faculty of UWA. In the state of Alabama, universities are given the right to make decisions based on guns on their campus.
“I would keep a gun in my car at school if they would allow us to because of the comfort of knowing that I have it and knowing how to use it if I need to,” said Melaina Miles, a senior majoring in nursing.
Although UWA has been ranked in the top five safest campuses in the state of Alabama, many students would have a great comfort in knowing that they could keep weapons in their vehicles to use in a necessary situation.
Many changes have been made to the state of Alabama’s gun laws in the month of August. However, if used in the correct manner, it could be very good for the state.
“I feel like the benefits of allowing responsible students to carry guns in their vehicles would greatly outweigh the cons,” said Berry.