Alabama sheriffs say they feel loss of gun license revenue
By RUSS COREY and KEVIN TAYLOR, TimesDaily
Alabama sheriffs experienced revenue declines as early as January of this year, leading Governor Kay Ivey to sign into law a bill that will no longer require handgun owners to have a license for their firearms as of January 1.
Pistol license revenue can add up to a small amount in a sheriff’s total budget, but this money is usually used to purchase additional equipment, training, and sometimes vehicles.
In northwest Alabama, Lauderdale County Sheriff-elect Joe Hamilton said he has seen a sharp decline in the purchase or renewal of pistol licenses from 2021 to present.
“We are moving back quickly,” he said.
Hamilton said gun permits generated $163,590 in revenue in 2021. The county has collected $57,710 through the end of August.
Hamilton said the department would simply circumvent the loss of revenue. He said the amount of revenue collected from pistol licenses in the county is about 1% of the total budget.
“We’re going to budget for this as best we can,” he said. He said for every $10 in gun permits raised, $6 goes to the county commission’s general fund, while $4 goes directly to the sheriff’s department.
To make up for the budget shortfall, some sheriffs across the state have looked for creative ways to replace revenue.
“Canteen items are not a necessity in our jail, but the money for these items is not of the same caliber as gun permits,” Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin said.
Most sheriffs said they would rely on their county commissions to supplant revenue.
“Now we’re going to have to rely more on county commission budget allocations,” Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said. “We have met with our county commission and are actively looking to adjust to this loss of revenue.”
Sonny Brasfield, who is executive director of the Alabama Association of County Commissions, said some sheriff’s departments have reported revenue losses of 30% to 40% since the bill was signed. Brasfield said that while the law doesn’t come into effect until Jan. 1, people stopped buying permits after Ivey signed the bill.
“Pistol licenses started to decline almost the minute the (governor’s) ink dried (approving the law),” Brasfield said. “Because of all the publicity, people stopped renewing their permits.”
Jones said the number of permits purchased or renewed in Lee County has dropped at least 38% since the law was signed in early March.
Franklin said his department has seen a steady decline in purchases or license renewals since January. He said that as of January 2021, his department had issued 896 permits. A year later, the department issued 622, which represents a decrease in funding of $5,500.
Locally, some sheriff’s departments have seen an even steeper drop in revenue. Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson said his gun license applications have dropped 40% to 60% this year.
For years, Alabama sheriffs have used revenue generated from gun permits to pay for items not included in their annual budgets, Hamilton said.
“We spend it on everything from training to equipment to motor vehicles,” he said.
Williamson said he tries to buy at least two vehicles a year with gun license earnings. In fact, his vehicle is purchased from this income. He also spent it on training, ammunition, weapons, clothing, and other items.
“I bought what we needed with it, what the county couldn’t buy,” he said. “It’s going to have a big impact (lose that revenue).”
A local act in Lee County directed that approximately one-third of funds raised through license sales and renewals be directed to the county’s general fund, with the remainder of the funds to be used directly for law enforcement purposes. law only, Jones said.
At least 65% of funds raised from the purchase or renewal of firearms licenses have helped fund the education and training of Jones’ deputies and officers. The rest of the money was used to buy equipment, including body armor, patrol vehicles and tasers.
Brasfield said the original law that ended pistol licenses contained a section that provided for a grant program designed to help fill the revenue void left by the elimination of pistol licenses.
But he said the $5 million included in the bill to make up for lost permit revenue was insufficient.
Brasfield also said the grant program would use 2022 as a benchmark to determine the amount of revenue lost by the sheriff’s department.
Williamson agrees with Brasfield that basing grants on 2022 numbers is incorrect.
“The way they wrote it, if you pass this year, we’re going to get next to nothing,” Williamson said.
Brasfield also said the grants should be paid to sheriff’s departments on an annual basis rather than quarterly.
Jones said the grant funds are not meant to be permanent funding, but a short-term solution, which will roll out in a few years.
Brasfield said he recently met with a group of Alabama sheriffs at an ACCA conference breakout session in Montgomery to discuss potential legislation that would seek to change the wording of the law. original regarding subsidies.
Hamilton said he supported ACCA’s efforts to introduce legislation to fill the financial void.
In the meantime, Jones, who is currently president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, said sheriffs across the state are advocating for gun owners to continue to purchase a gun license.
“If you’re an Alabama resident and not out of state, then you’re probably fine,” Jones said. “But for convenience, I would encourage them to keep a license, especially if you are traveling out of state. In some states, they could face a criminal charge without a license.
Fewer states require a gun owner to have a license. Alabama became the 22nd state to pass such a law, while the Alabama Sheriff’s Association opposed it.
(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.)