State sheriffs concerned about funding, crime with new permitless carry law

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As of Jan. 1, Alabama joined a growing number of states allowing gun owners to carry handguns openly or concealed without a permit.

Alabama’s law, HB272, allows anyone 19 or older who can legally own a handgun to carry it openly or concealed in Alabama without a permit. Concealed carry permits, which were $20 a year, were paid to county sheriff’s offices. Those offices will now miss out on that permit money, but the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs will be offering grants for sheriff’s offices who need that funding.

Like most of Alabama’s sheriffs, Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy isn’t fond of this new law. But it’s not about the money, he said. It’s about officer safety and their crime enforcement efforts.

“The true problem here, really, is what it does as far as enforcing crime and keeping crime down on a street level,” Abernathy said. “People don’t realize what has been taken away from us. There’s all kinds of issues.”

Abernathy said that on the money front, Tuscaloosa County is fine. It’s elsewhere he’s worried about.

“In smaller counties they’re going to lose personnel,” he said. “They’re going to lose equipment. It’s going to be painful for them.”

In a smaller county, Hale County Sheriff Michael Hamilton said he’s not too concerned about a loss of revenue because his residents are still buying permits.

“The citizens of Hale County are still doing their part and purchasing their pistol permits,” Hamilton said. “And I’m proud to see that they are doing it because it helps us when they do that.”

In Tuscaloosa County, a good chunk of the lost revenue has already been found from other sources.

“Financially, we are very blessed here in Tuscaloosa County,” he said. “Our (Tuscaloosa County Commission) is incredible. They’ve actually completely funded us for our lost revenue, so that’s not a problem for us.”

That’s why Abernathy said he’s planning on applying for the ADECA grant when it becomes available. He’ll use those funds to reimburse the Tuscaloosa County Commission so they can spend that money elsewhere as needed.

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