Businesses, schools, and individuals are bracing for the impact of a new gun law in Alabama that goes into effect Thursday. There are still a lot of questions about the law and how it will be enforced.
In some instances, the Alabama law contradicts federal gun laws already on the books. Two of the gray areas involve guns in school zones and at sporting events.
Alabama has always been an "open carry" state where residents can carry a gun without a permit, as long as the firearm can be seen.
On Thursday those who open carry will be able to take their guns into places where the weapons were traditionally unwelcomed.
"We've got a waiting list," says Montgomery County Chief Deputy Derrick Cunningham, referring to stickers that ban open carry that are being offered to businesses in the county.
The stickers are for Montgomery County businesses only because they say "Montgomery County Sheriff's Office" and "Sheriff D.T. Marshall". Contacting the MCSO to obtain one can be done by calling 334-832-1339. If you live outside Montgomery Co., contact your local sheriff's dept.
While a sign by the front door will alert visitors that guns are not allowed inside the business, Chief Deputy Cunningham says, "that person can still openly carry out in the parking lot."
The firearms must be locked away in a car, separate from the ammunition.
"Because the way the law was written," says Cunningham, "you can't ask questions about 'Hey, do you have a gun in your car" or 'Are you bringing a gun to work with you?""
Still, law enforcement officers are still unclear on how to enforce the law and are reaching out to U.S. Attorney George Beck's office for guidance. "Can they take a firearm to, say, a sporting event," Beck asks, or, "can they take it to a football game?
"The State Attorney General is gonna have to get in there and make some rulings on some of these very critical issues," Beck explains.
School zones are another source of confusion. The state law bans guns on school property, but doesn't rule out employees leaving guns in their cars, parking lots, clearly on campus. That does not take into account federal law which bans guns 1000 feet from a school.
"The State Legislature, I think, has decided that the state constitutional right to bear arms kind of trumps that right now," Beck says.
Attorney General Luther Strange's office did not specifically respond to our request on potential rulings on the law. The Alabama Department of Education is reviewing the law and plans to meet with the AG's office next month.
As for the University of Alabama and Auburn University, both are reviewing the law as well. Alabama already has signs prohibiting weapons outside athletic venues.
The new law goes into effect on Thursday.
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