- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama Senate is trying to expand gun rights in Alabama by allowing more motorists to carry loaded pistols in their vehicles.

The Senate voted 20-7 Wednesday night in favor of a bill by Republican Sen. Scott Beason that would allow motorists without pistol permits to carry loaded pistols in their cars. The bill must be passed by the House and signed by the governor to become law. With only four meeting days left in the 2014 legislative session, Beason said time is a factor.

“It’s late in the session, but I feel pretty good about it,” he said.

The Senate passed the bill after the chamber’s Republican majority voted to cut off a filibuster by Democratic opponents.

Currently, a person without a pistol permit can carry a handgun in a vehicle provided it is unloaded and out of reach. People have to buy a pistol permit from a county sheriff to carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle because the gun is currently considered a concealed weapon. No permit is needed to carry a loaded shotgun or rifle.

Opponents predicted the bill would lead to more motorists being shot in anger and more accidents involving children getting guns.

Beason said the bill would be used by people working late shifts who want protection going to and from work. “To ask them to pay to have a useable weapon in the car is inappropriate,” he said.

Bobby Timmons, executive director of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, said the group opposes the bill because fewer people would buy pistol permits, and those fees help fund law enforcement programs and other functions of county government. Timmons estimated that about 80 percent of the people who buy pistol permits do it only to carry a loaded handgun in their cars for their commutes to work.

The annual price of pistol permits varies from county to county, with $30 being the maximum.