Some states require residents to jump through hoops to get a gun license – Alabama is not among them. Obtaining a license is very easy in Alabama, a state that has gun laws that are among the most lenient in the country. In fact, an individual does not need a permit, license or registration to buy firearms or to possess them. However, a license is required for handguns and concealed weapons.
Buying a Gun in the State of Alabama
Alabama's state constitution declares inviolate a citizen's right to bear arms in their own defense or in defense of the state. As one might expect, given this strong language, Alabama allows – even encourages – gun ownership. The state does this by making it easy to buy and own guns.
In Alabama, a person of sound mind and over the age of 18 can purchase and own a rifle, shotgun or handgun in the state. Neither a permit nor a license is required, and the state does not require any type of registration.
Can individual cities or counties enact stricter gun laws? They cannot. Under Alabama law the entire field of regulation that touches in any way upon firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories is reserved to the state legislature, and excludes any order, ordinance or rule promulgated or enforced by any political subdivision.
Open Carry in Alabama
While buying and owning firearms is virtually unregulated in Alabama, there are some laws that limit the right to carry handguns and all concealed weapons. Generally, open carry of rifles is perfectly legal in the state.
Anyone who has the right to own a firearm has a concomitant right to open carry. In fact, Alabama permits the open carry of firearms, even machine guns and semi-automatic weapons, as long as the owner complies with all federal regulations. No permit is required, but a few areas are off limits, including courthouses and schools.
Concealed Carry Firearms Laws in Alabama
Anyone wishing to carry a concealed weapon in Alabama, or carry a pistol, must apply for an Alabama concealed weapon permit. If a person wishes to carry a handgun beyond the limits of their own property, or carry any concealed firearm, they must obtain a permit to do so.
The permit is labeled a "concealed weapons permit," but because a gun owner must have the permit to carry a handgun even if carrying it in plain sight, it is also termed a "pistol permit." Anyone with an Alabama pistol permit can carry concealed weapons. Note that carrying a firearm in the car is considered a concealed carry and, unless it is still in its store packaging or in a locked compartment, a concealed carry permit is required in Alabama.
An individual can carry a concealed and loaded firearm inside a vehicle in Alabama if they have a state-issued pistol permit. Anyone without such a permit must discharge their weapon and secure it in a locked compartment if they want to carry it in the car.
Alabama is a "shall-issue" jurisdiction. That means that anyone applying for a concealed weapons license or an Alabama pistol permit must be given one so long as they meet state requirements. The application is submitted at the local sheriff’s office at the county level.
The applicant is not required to complete a firearms safety course or otherwise demonstrate knowledge of firearms safety. Nor is any background check or registration required other than checking on the person's criminal record.
Applying for a Concealed-Carry Permit
An individual wishing to obtain a carry and concealed weapons permit or a pistol permit should submit the application to the county sheriff's office. This can be done online if the applicant was born in the United States, though those born abroad must appear in person. The sheriff will issue the permit if the person is over 18 and appears to be "a suitable person." A permit issued in one county is, under Alabama state law, valid in all other state counties.
The sheriff can deny a permit if the applicant is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under state or federal law. They may also deny the permit if they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person may endanger themselves or others. For example, in Jefferson County, the sheriff generally doesn't issue a permit if the applicant:
- Is a registered sex offender.
- Was found guilty, but mentally ill in a criminal case.
- Was found not guilty by reason of insanity or mental disease or defect.
- Was declared incompetent to stand trial.
- Raised a criminal defense of not guilty by reason of insanity or mental disease.
- Required involuntary treatment in a psychiatric hospital or similar treatment facility.
- Required involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital or similar treatment facility for any reason.
- Is the subject of a commitment or incompetency proceeding.
- Falsified part of the permit application.
- Raises justifiable concern for public safety.
Pistol Permit Application Process
Only residents of Alabama and active-duty soldiers deployed in Alabama can obtain an Alabama pistol permit. The applicant must pay a license fee that varies by county. For example, in Jefferson County, the cost of a permit is $7.50 for a year. If a person is caught carrying a pistol or a concealed weapon without a permit, they may be prosecuted and sentenced to up to one year in jail.
Constitutional Carry Laws
A number of states have passed "constitutional carry" legislation. These laws make it a constitutional right for adult residents to carry handguns for self-defense purposes. Such bills have passed the state legislatures in Texas and Louisiana and, if signed, they will become the 21st and 22nd constitutional carry states.
Alabama is not among these states yet. However, there is a bill filed in the house legislature that would give adult residents without criminal records the absolute right to carry handguns for self-defense without first having to go through government red tape or to pay fees.
Reciprocity of Licenses and State Permits
Alabama recognizes all out-of-state concealed carry licenses. A nonresident visiting Alabama who is licensed to carry a handgun in another state will not need to obtain a new concealed weapons permit for the visit. Most other states recognize an Alabama license, but not all. California, for example, does not recognize the license. That means that Alabama residents cannot rely on their concealed carry license in California.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.