Legislators outline the omnibus gun bill at the BCA government committee

Two House members who are deeply involved with the omnibus gun bill that is opposed by the Business Council of Alabama discussed the legislation that was the subject of a public hearing in the House today.

Reps. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, and Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, spoke to the BCA’s Governmental Affairs Committee about SB 286 by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale.

The bill would allow employees to possess firearms in their locked vehicles at work even over the objection of their employer who owns the business property. It also would allow lifetime gun permitting with some exceptions and with a post-issuance repeal.

The BCA opposes the legislation because it infringes on the private property rights of business owners. The bill is a challenge to Republicans who want businesses protected but also are aware of the current national debate over gun rights and of law enforcement concerns.

Williams is chairman of the House Commerce and Small Business Committee that held a public hearing on the bill after the BCA Governmental Affairs Committee meeting.

William J. Canary, president and CEO of the BCA, at the public hearing said that the measure threatens private property rights and could increase business liability, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

Canary said the legislation is “a solution seeking a problem” and the only purpose it serves would be to allow the National Rifle Association “to color in a map.”

“It will undermine the credibility of law enforcement and especially the Legislature, because it will cater to gun manufacturers who have seen an increase in their profits,” the Advertiser quoted Grover Smith of the Alabama Sheriffs’ Association.

No vote was taken but the committee is scheduled to meet again at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Williams said he’s not sure if he’ll allow the bill out of committee this week or next week.

Henry sponsored HB 570, the House version of SB 286, as a defensive measure to retain control of it.

SB 286, which has been substituted and amended, would not allow business owners to survey employees for gun possession and they could be liable for attempting to prohibit firearms on their property.

“I want to go as far as possible in protecting the interests of the business community,” Williams added. “And I want to go as far as possible in protecting the public from workplace violence.”

-Dana Beyerle