Citation(s) from the literature library

Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2023 ‘Preemption of Local Laws.’ Other Laws & Policies. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 8 February

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[Editor's note: The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence regularly updates its webpages with new data as US gun regulation evolves state by state. For the most up-to-date information on US gun laws, please refer to the Giffords URL below]

Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Alabama

In 1982, Alabama enacted a specific handgun-related preemption statute, Alabama Code § 11-45-1.1 which states:

No incorporated municipality shall have the power to enact any ordinance, rule, or regulation which shall tax, restrict, prevent, or in any way affect the possession or ownership of handguns by the citizens of this state. The entire subject matter of handguns is reserved to the State Legislature. This section shall not be construed to limit or restrict the power of a municipality to adopt ordinances which make the violation of a state handgun law a violation of a municipal ordinance to the same extent as other state law violations, or to limit or restrict the power of a municipal court to exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the district court over violations of state handgun laws which may be prosecuted as breaches of a municipal ordinance.

In Ex parte Childers, 640 So. 2d 16 (1994), the Supreme Court of Alabama found a municipal ordinance prohibiting the possession of all firearms, including handguns, on the premises of any business maintaining a "lounge retail liquor license" to be preempted by section 11-45-1. (despite the fact that § 11-45-1.1 relates only to handguns, and does not proscribe local regulation of other firearms).

Alabama Attorney General opinions have reinforced the total preemptive effect of section 11-45-1.1 on municipal handgun regulation. For example, the Attorney General has opined that under section 11-45-1.1, municipalities have no authority to enact any ordinance dealing with handguns. The Attorney General has stated that while a municipality may not adopt a workplace violence prevention policy for its employees prohibiting employees from possessing handguns in the workplace, the municipality may adopt a policy prohibiting possession of any other type of weapon by employees.

Section 11-80-11, enacted in 2000, also significantly affects the ability of municipalities and counties to regulate the sale, possession and use of all firearms, not only handguns. Section 11-80-11(a) states: "No county or municipal corporation, instrumentality, or political subdivision thereof, by ordinance, resolution, or other enactment, shall regulate in any manner gun shows, the possession, ownership, transport, carrying, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, registration or use of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, firearms dealers, or dealers in firearm components." Under Alabama law, a firearm is defined as "[a] weapon from which a shot is discharged by gunpowder."

By its terms, section 11-80-11 does not affect the authority of:

- A municipality to regulate the discharge of firearms within its boundaries;
- A county to regulate the discharge of firearms within its boundaries under a law enacted prior to August 1, 2000; or
- A county or municipality to assess, enforce and collect sales taxes, use taxes, and gross receipts taxes on the retail sale of firearms and ammunition, and to assess, enforce and collect business licenses from firearms or ammunition manufacturers, trade associations, distributors or dealers for the privilege of engaging in business.

Section 11-80-11(b)(2) also states:

[N]othing herein shall exempt any business which uses firearms or ammunition in the conduct of its business or any business which leases or sells firearms or ammunition from the provisions of county and municipal planning and zoning laws, as long as the code, ordinance, or regulations are not used to circumvent the intent of subsection (a).

This section shall not be construed to limit or restrict the power of a municipality to adopt or enforce ordinances which make the violation of a state firearm law a violation of a municipal ordinance to the same extent as other state law violations.

There are no cases interpreting section 11-80-11. However, the Attorney General has opined that even under sections 11-45-1.1 and 11-80-11 a city may still:

- Regulate the discharge of firearms other than handguns within its corporate limits;
- Adopt an ordinance making a violation of a state handgun law a violation of a municipal ordinance; and
- Regulate the times and places a firearm can be discharged for hunting and nonhunting purposes, provided the ordinance or regulation is not inconsistent with state laws and regulations.

Section 6-5-341, pertaining to the regulation of sport shooting ranges, states that rules or regulations adopted by any governmental body (including any county or municipal governing body per § 6-5-341(a)(1)) limiting levels of noise in terms of decibel level or limiting levels of lead occurring in the atmosphere shall not apply to a sport shooting range exempted from liability under section 6-5-341…

Finally, city and town councils have the power to revoke any license issued to a location where firearms are kept for sale when "the public safety, peace, good order or decency may require it" and when the owner or operator of the location has been convicted of any violation of city or town ordinances regulating such a business. A city or town has the power to authorize the mayor or other chief executive officer by proclamation to cause any or all houses or places of amusement or houses or places for the sale of firearms to be closed for a period not longer than the next meeting of the city or town council or other governing body…

ID: Q7696

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