Alabama's Constitution decrees that "every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state." In the spirit of that lofty language, the state's gun laws are among the most lenient in the nation. In Alabama you do not need a permit, license or registration to buy or possess firearms. But you do need a license to carry handguns and all concealed weapons.
Are you under 18? Do you look mentally unsound? Could you pass for a drug addict, alcoholic or violent criminal? If you answered no to all these questions, then congratulations—you can buy and keep a rifle, shotgun or handgun in the state of Alabama.
When you buy your gun, you must keep it in its store packaging until you get it home. That's because it is illegal in Alabama to carry a firearm in your car without a concealed weapons permit. This permit will also be needed if you're anywhere off your property and want to carry a handgun, even in plain sight (that's why this permit is also known as the "pistol permit"). Ignoring this law is serious business.The penalty if you get caught carrying a pistol or concealed weapon without a permit could be one year in jail.
Pistols and Concealed Weapons
To apply for a carry and concealed weapons (CCW) permit, you must contact your county sheriff in Alabama. He will issue a permit to carry if you're at least 21 and appear to be "a suitable person." There is a license fee that varies by county (Montgomery and Mobile charge $20 a year as of 2009). Even with the CCW permit, it is always illegal to bring a gun to an airport, courthouse, near public schools or public gatherings. Other local restrictions may apply, and some counties may run a background check.
Read More: How to Study for Concealed Weapon Permit
If You're Visiting From Another State
If you're not a resident of Alabama, but you're licensed to carry a handgun in another state, you may not need to obtain a new concealed weapons permit while you're visiting Alabama. Thanks to a legal maneuver called reciprocity, as of early 2009 Alabama honors concealed weapons permits from the following states: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
Keep in mind, this list is only a guide—so you should always "call before you carry" when visiting Alabama. In addition, if you move to Alabama permanently, you'll need to obtain an Alabama state-issued CCW permit.
It's illegal in Alabama to own or sell any firearm in which the name or identifying mark of the gun is scratched out or changed. Short-barreled rifles and shotguns are also illegal.
Dave Baker is an editor and writer based in New York. He has more than a dozen years of experience in the media industry, including work for "The Nation" magazine, the "New York Times" and the "Times-Picayune" of New Orleans, where he shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes after Hurricane Katrina.