PHOTO: Representative Mack Butler (R - Rainbow City) seeks to allow concealed-carry in many places across the state that currently prohibit it. (File Photo)
By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Several bills relating to gun rights have been filed or are currently in the works in Montgomery for 2017. Representative Mack Butler (R - Rainbow City) is working on a bill that seeks to eliminate many 'Gun Free Zones' within the state.
'Gun Free Zones' are any area that prohibits law-abiding citizens from possessing a firearm while within the area in question. Many point out that the majority of mass shootings target areas where possession of a firearm is prohibited.
“We’re trying to remove every gun free zone we possibly can. They are just soft targets,” said Representative Butler.
Representative Butler represents Etowah and St. Clair counties, and is also a certified deputy with Etowah County Sheriff’s Office. Butler filed a similar measure that would have been on the ballot as a constitutional amendment last year, but the bill died in the Committee for Education Policy.
While the bill would have no jurisdiction over Federally administered buildings (i.e. Federal Courthouses, The Post Office, etc.), the bill would allow for carrying a handgun on college campuses, with the exception of private colleges. Allowing students to ‘carry’ on campus has been debated in the past, but currently campus police are the only ones allowed to possess a firearm in our institutions of higher learning.
“There are people on campus, whether they be law enforcement, military, or a gun enthusiast, that are experts, but not allowed to carry a gun to protect themselves and others,” Butler explained.
Currently, schools and colleges across the state are training students to, “Run, Hide, or Fight,” which are procedures issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to help students and teachers deal with an active shooter. While the “run” and “hide” portions of this method are pretty self-explanatory, the fight portion is a little harder to imagine when unarmed and facing an attacker with a gun.
According to DHS, victims should only fight, “as a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger,” according to a publication on the agency’s website. It also states that victims should, “Attempt to incapacitate the shooter," and, "act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter.”
“If the ‘run’ or ‘hide’ doesn’t work out, all you have to throw at the gunman is a book or a pencil. Would you rather have a pencil or a pistol?” stated Butler. “You’ve got to be proactive when it comes to protecting yourself and those around you.”
While this bill will allow concealed carry in places where it was previously prohibited, private businesses will still be able to prohibit guns from being inside their facilities. County and municipal courtrooms will also remain gun free zones, as Butler’s bill will retain the current law’s allowance for restrictions if an armed guard is present within the facility.
Although some places that prohibit legal concealed carry would remain, Butler hopes that the increase in law-abiding citizens carrying weapons would help shift the public’s opinion to view them as an asset to safety, instead of a threat.
“When you are at a grocery store or church, you’ve got people packing, you just don’t know it,” Butler said. “Our founders never intended for someone to be required to carry a piece of paper or have permission for self defense.”
Eddie Fulmer is the President of BamaCarry, an organization devoted to the right for law abiding citizens to carry within our state. While Fulmer hasn’t seen Butler’s current bill, BamaCarry is on board with campus carry.
“We’re all for Campus Carry. Several states in recent years have allowed campus carry, and their has been no incidents in these cases,” Fulmer said.
“92 percent of all mass-shootings that happen in the United States within the last ten-plus years has occurred in a ‘Gun Free Zone',” Fulmer explained.
While the bill hasn’t been filled yet, Butler says, “It will be ready here very soon,” and he hopes to submit to the Public Safety Committee for review.
While many Alabamians will no-doubt support the proposal, Butler has faced opposition from educators and lobbyist in the past.
“I got a lot of hate mail, but I also got a lot of response from educators in support of the bill,” Butler said.
“Lobbyist are opposed to it, but I don’t work for the lobbyist, I work for the people,” Butler stated.