Alabama county sheriff’s budgets are taking a big hit after a drop in gun permit applications has led to significant revenue losses.
Sheriffs from across the state recently met with the Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA) to discuss the financial consequences of a law passed earlier this year that repealed requirements to buy a concealed carry permit.
Sheriffs opposed the law for two reasons.
First, they argued the law would make it more difficult for police to distinguish between lawful gun carriers and those who are illegally carrying a weapon, which could put more officers in danger.
Second, they warned that the law would lead to a loss of revenue as issuing permits brings in significant funds for the county.
Previously, gun owners had to pay $20 each year to renew their permit to carry handguns in their vehicles or concealed on their person.
Officials say the financial impact could ultimately halve sheriff’s agency budgets next year when the law goes into effect, and some agencies are already feeling the impact as people are opting to wait until the law goes into effect instead of buying a permit.
For instance, sheriffs with the Montgomery and Baldwin counties said that they’ve been hit with a 40% drop in revenue since the law was passed, with losses ranging from $200,000 to $400,000.
ACCA Executive Director Sonny Brasfield said that based on the average of 650,000 to 750,000 permits issued each year, the state can expect a loss of $13 to $15 million.
Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham said that the law was just another tool for defunding law enforcement.
“This is just another way of defunding law enforcement at a time when violent crime is on the rise,” Cunningham said. “I don’t think we will ever see funding from this come back, and we need to look at other areas to get revenue to make sure we keep our officers trained and keep the latest equipment in our offices to help protect our communities.”
Brasfield lamented the repeal of the permits and said that sheriffs had warned about the potential consequences.
“Honestly, one of the key elements in securing the votes for passage of the controversial legislation was the consistent message that local revenue would not be reduced in any way,” Brasfield said. “Sheriffs insisted that such a message was counterintuitive, and they were right.”
However, lawmakers said that the bill contains a provision to create a fund of $2 million each year for the next three years to keep sheriffs afloat until they can find another revenue stream.
Lawmakers also say that those who intend to travel with their guns across state lines will need to obtain a permit.
“I don’t want to be in a situation where I am violating the law, and the best way to do that is having a permit,” state Rep. Allen Treadaway (R-Birmingham) said. “If there is a drop off (of permit applications) in Alabama, then we are the only state with millions of dollars set aside with a commitment to make sure the sheriffs do not lose revenue and that there is a public safety danger with less money for patrols and things like that.”
Brasfield said that these funds would only make up a fraction of the total loss in revenue.
Indeed, sheriffs are turning to the county commissions to make up for the losses expected in the next fiscal year’s budget.
Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack said that his and other agencies are expecting a “50% to 60%” reduction in revenues by the same time next year, which could impact their ability to train and license officers.
“We find our agencies turning to the commissions to make it up in our budgets,” Montgomery Sheriff Cunningham said. “Most agencies have to have 12 hours of continuing education to keep their arrest powers. This is regulated by (the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission) so that revenue (from the permits) is really needed to keep certified law enforcement officers on our streets,” the sheriff continued.
Brasfield said that the county commission is working with sheriff’s departments to pass legislation to make up for the losses and that restoring the funds is one of the “top priorities” for 2023.