We often complain about national groups coming in and telling the locals how they should be doing it. This is usually in the context of a group like Mike Bloomberg’s Everytown, Moms Demand Action, or Giffords. However, sometimes it is our own side in the battle for gun rights that is doing this.
Such is the case in Alabama where the NRA is supporting a move to consolidate the list of pistol permit holders, that state’s nomenclature for a concealed carry permit, into a statewide database. The bills in question are HB39 and SB47. The bills provide for the permits to be standardized and issued statewide. They also provide for a lifetime carry permit.
This move is getting a mixed reaction as reported by CBS 42.
Bama Carry and the Alabama Gun Rights Network don’t always agree on the best strategies for advancing gun rights in the Heart of Dixie.
However, when I reached out to friends who are affiliated with those organizations, the response I got was virtually identical. They are opposed to the bills in their current form as they create a database of gun owners which has the potential to be abused.
My friend Beth Alcazar, the Alabama representative of the DC Project and a board member of Bama Carry, had this to say to me in a Facebook message. I’m quoting her with her permission.
At the heart of this matter (and why we are hesitant to get on board) is the fact that law abiding gun owners will be on a registry, with all information being shared, statewide, and this info. could end up on a driver license. This, of course, could cause problems traveling across state lines. What if someone is stopped or pulled over and now questioned or harassed (or searched) because of this identification? And what happens if a government body must be created to oversee this database? Currently, our permit info. is only in the hands of our sheriffs. A lifetime permit could open that up… from just local to state.
Additionally, the NRA doesn’t appear to be listening to Alabamians or to our state’s largest gun rights group, and they continue to push legislation that has potential problems or unintended consequences.
And therein lies the problem. When it is a matter of state and local politics, local activists should be listened to. That there seems to be a disconnect between local gun right rights groups and the NRA on an issue of local concern is not good. The NRA should either defer to the local groups or work to find a compromise that satisfies all gun rights groups involved.
We in North Carolina had much the same problem in 2011 concerning gun bans outside the home during periods of declared emergencies. Grass Roots North Carolina along with local plaintiffs and the Second Amendment Foundation brought Bateman v. Perdue. The NRA-ILA representative in North Carolina was pushing for a quick legislative fix that would have mooted the case. The problem with a quick legislative fix was that it could have been changed on the whim of the next General Assembly. GRNC, SAF, and local activists had to push legislators to let the court case run its path. In the end the General Assembly did that and we won a decision in Bateman declaring the gun ban unconstitutional.
I wrote back then (June 2011) that “there are some in the NRA’s hierarchy who believe the NRA has to be the be-all and end-all of all things Second Amendment.” I noted that the NRA does some things really well and others not so well. I said the NRA should concentrate on training, the legislative arena, and other areas where a mass organization can do well. I didn’t think they were nearly as good at Second Amendment litigation as SAF.
I would now modify my statement from 2011 to say that the NRA does lobbying at the national level well and should work closer with state and local groups on state level lobbying if they want to be effective. Moreover, by state and local groups I don’t mean it has to be the NRA state affiliate as the experience of non-affiliates VCDL and GRNC has shown. Whether the NRA and their state ILA representatives are wise enough to recognize this is still open to debate.