Nearly 160,000 men and women are licensed to carry concealed handguns in Alabama’s largest metropolitan areas, according to the sheriffs who issue the annual permits and rely on the fees they generate to keep their deputies equipped and rolling, reports the Alabama Media Group in a package of stories called “Armed in Alabama.” The same decentralized system that gives Alabama sheriffs discretion on who gets a carry permit also means no central record of how many permits exist in the state and no central record of who has them or has been denied a permit.
Last year, Alabama was one of only three states that could not provide the number of current concealed-carry permits to the federal Government Accountability Office. The other two were New Hampshire and North Dakota. GAO found 8 million current and valid concealed-carry permits in the U.S. today. The state law granting sheriffs discretion to issue permits makes Alabama one of 10 “may issue” states, to use the national terminology of gun control. Thirty-nine other states, such as Florida, are “shall issue” states – meaning anyone who meets the criteria must receive a permit – or they require no permits. Only Illinois and the District of Columbia are “no issue” jurisdictions, meaning no permits are issued. Whether those two jurisdictions can ban handgun carrying in light of the 2nd Amendment has not been decided by the courts.