The Alabama Sheriff’s Association wants to create a statewide database that would track pistol permits in the state of Alabama. This would standardize the way that they look so that law enforcement officers throughout the state could easily recognize fake ones. Officers would also be able to more quickly garner the information they needed from a valid pistol permit. While I certainly agree with them that the pistol permit in its current incarnation needs to be standardized for easier use by permit holders and law enforcement, there’s a better way of gathering the information that they are than a statewide database. This would make the risks and concerns that go along with it unnecessary.
Right now, the information pertaining to pistol permits in the state of Alabama resides in a database at the sheriff’s department where the pistol permit is issued. Under the proposed bill by the Alabama Sheriff’s Association, that would change. There are a couple safety concerns with a centralized database. If gun control advocates ever got control of the federal government, or hackers ever wanted to hack that information, then they would only need to access one database instead of sixty-seven.
In the state of Alabama, most cops that work the streets at the local level, the county level, or the state level have internet capable laptops in their cruisers. If they are running traffic enforcement, all they have to do to is swipe the magnetic strip on the back of your driver’s license and they can access not only the information associated with the driver’s license, but your driving history, criminal history, and any warrants out for your arrest. Using that software system, and the very portable nature of information over the internet, there’s a better way of giving law enforcement officers in this state access to the information they seek without having a statewide database.
Back there in the early ’90s, the federal government required states to report the vehicle history information for every vehicle registered in their state to the federal government. The federal government also offered grants to ensure that states could send them that information electronically and automatically. That system works so well now that it’s almost an afterthought that states send that information to the federal government. Many of the software providers that provide motor vehicle registration software to states automatically include the capability of sending that information to the federal government in their software packages.
Information that is transferred electronically can be formatted to fit the necessary parameters of the software provider or providers that provide the software for the laptops and police cruisers. Sheriffs could submit the names, pistol permit numbers, expiration dates, and status of the pistol permits. This way, there doesn’t have to be a statewide database of pistol permit information, and officers working traffic enforcement can still have access to the information they need. Officers can react accordingly in situations that they would otherwise have to assume are dangerous.
Ask any officer and they will tell you: if they pull over a pistol permit holder who is concealing in their vehicle, but hands them their pistol permit along with their insurance and driver’s license, they know that person is a citizen who means them no harm. They are going to react differently than they would in a situation where they see a gun in the center console between the seats, but the driver doesn’t hand over a pistol permit with their driver’s license and insurance information.
Giving officers access to the information they need to be safe, and providing a safe experience for the general public, while making it easier to spot forgeries and fake government IDs is important. It’s something the legislature needs to take up. However, there’s a better way of doing it without creating another state-run database, which would spend more taxpayers’ dollars, and create more bureaucracy. We are ever slowly encroaching upon and eroding away the civil liberties of the people of Alabama with legislature like this.