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Birmingham City Councilor LaTonya Tate on the Dangers of Concealed Weapons

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Birmingham City Councilor LaTonya Tate (FILE)

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Alabama consistently ranks at the top of all statewide statistics when dealing with firearms. For the first six months of 2022, there were an estimated 428,400 guns sold in Alabama, which is enough to rank the state sixth in gun sales.

On January 1, Alabama became the 25th state to allow for permitless concealed carry, a move that has drawn criticism from Birmingham City Councilor LaTonya Tate who chairs the Public Safety Committee and who has a background in corrections.

The new law allows anyone over the age of 18 (who does not have any legal restrictions to own a firearm) to legally carry a concealed handgun in public.

“The law enforcement officials who I have spoken to about this are not in favor of this new law at all,” Tate said. “We’ve already seen a proliferation of people who carry guns in our city and the men and women tasked with protecting our communities already have enough to deal with. I do not see how this makes anything easier or safer for law enforcement or the general public for that matter.”

In 2022, 49 youths (age 13 to 22) lost their lives to gun violence in Birmingham. Councilor Tate said she has concerns over the impact the new bill could have on young people’s access to firearms and normalizing people carrying them.

The Alabama Sheriff’s Association stated opposition to the bill prior to its passage saying that there would be a considerable drop in revenue for sheriff’s departments that receive a substantial portion of their funding through the purchase of gun permits.

“This is just another way of defunding law enforcement at a time when violent crime is on a rise,” Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham told AL.com. “I don’t think we will ever see funding from this come back and we need to look at other areas to get revenue to make sure we keep our officers trained and keep the latest equipment in our offices to help protect our communities.”

Annually, the state of Alabama issues roughly 700,000 pistol permits, meaning the revenue loss is estimated to be upwards of $14 million. However, there is a provision in the bill that earmarks $2 million to supplement loss of income for sheriff’s departments.

“My issue with these new measures are twofold; not only does this mean more people will be carrying concealed weapons, but also it reduces revenue for law enforcement that needs our support more than ever,” Councilor Tate said. “This is a matter of public safety, and I just don’t understand how it can make people feel safer when anyone could have a gun on them. I would have loved to see an increased focus on conflict resolution be a part of this bill but that’s not the case.”

“Constitutional Carry”

Proponents of the bill refer to it as “constitutional carry” and tout the new measures as bolstering Alabamian’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“It’s going to be a big step to help the average law-abiding citizen to keep them from having to go through the hoops of getting a permit to carry their weapons,” Rep. Shane Stringer, the legislation’s sponsor, told the Associated Press. “It’s not going change who can and cannot carry a gun. People that are prohibited now are still prohibited.”

Governor Kay Ivey recently announced the start of the Sheriffs’ Grants for all of Alabama’s 67 counties.

Under the Local Government Pistol Permit Revenue Loss Fund, Alabama sheriffs need to show a loss of pistol permit funds based on the 2022 figures. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is making disbursements to the sheriff’s offices based on reports collected by other state agencies.

Beyond the issue of lost revenue for law enforcement, Councilor Tate said she wants to use her position to increase gun safety and awareness across the city.

“Far too often we see instances of people trying to resolve their issues with a gun. I’m going to be working with my colleagues on the Council to find ways to increase support for organizations that focus on violence reduction and conflict resolution,” Councilor Tate said. “Bottom line is easier access to guns do not make us safer. I’m disappointed by these new laws but I’m resolute in my commitment to reducing violent crime in our city and giving our young people more opportunities to be successful.”

In January, the Council unanimously approved an agreement and funding for a new youth intervention program — a partnership between the City, the Jefferson County Family Court, Jefferson County Family Resource Center and Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Center. The program is known as RESTORE.

The program will be centered around trauma-informed, mental health services and case management designed to help build on an individual’s needs and potential for success.

“This is a very though-out and robust opportunity for this city. A lot of key components of this really stick out to me, especially the need to do away with ‘working in siloes’ as it’s been described,”  Tate said. “I really like the idea of multiple organizations partnering together to make sure our young people aren’t just going in and out of they system, but providing support to their families to make sure their environment is one that will lead to success. These are the kinds of strategies that can make a difference in reducing crime and that’s what we’re focused on moving forward.”