Complying with state law, the city of Florence has taken down their signs in city parks that forbid guns on the property.
FLORENCE — Until a few days ago, carrying firearms into city parks was forbidden.
That has changed.
Last week, city officials removed signs at parks that prohibited weapons in the public spaces. Mayor Mickey Haddock said it was brought to the attention of city officials that city ordinances prohibiting weapons cannot be stricter than state law.
“We have always hung our hat on the word ‘weapons,’” Haddock said. “Mainly, we want to be safety conscious for all our citizens and the children playing in the parks.”
During the Aug. 4 City Council meeting, a representative of Shoals Second Amendment told the mayor and council the signs prohibiting firearms in city parks violate state law.
Jeff Hopper, the spokesman for the group, said an opinion issued by the state attorney general’s office in a similar case said local governments cannot exceed the state’s jurisdiction. In this case, he said, state law does not prohibit firearms in public places, with a few exceptions.
“The attorney general’s opinion says the state has all jurisdiction restricting firearms,” Hopper said. “You can’t be more strict than state law.”
Hopper said if city officials removed the sign from parks, his group would not file a complaint with the state.
The case Hopper referred to was from the city of Moulton, in Lawrence County. Similar signs in city parks were removed after the attorney general informed officials there that banning firearms in parks exceeded the city’s powers.
The Legislature approved open carry of firearms in 2013. In the past, open carry was prohibited, and only those with a concealed carry pistol permit from a sheriff’s department could carry a pistol.
Now, it is legal to carry a pistol in open view in public. A pistol cannot, however, be kept within the reach of the driver of a vehicle unless the driver holds a conceal carry permit. Otherwise, weapons must be kept locked in the trunk of a vehicle.
There also have been challenges to university prohibitions against students having firearms on campus. Attorney General Luther Strange wrote that state colleges and universities are not “political subdivisions” as are cities, but “public corporations” that do not fall under his jurisdiction. So, those restrictions stand.
Florence officials, for now, will comply with the attorney general’s opinion, but Haddock said the matter remains under discussion.
“We want people to use good common sense when bearing arms,” he said. “We don’t want to make anyone afraid because someone is bearing arms in a park.”
But the concept of open carry doesn’t settle well with Haddock, who said he has a concealed carry permit.
“A couple of Saturdays ago, (my wife) Linda and I went to a volunteer fire department fish fry, and there was a person there openly carrying a gun,” he said. “The first thought that came to my mind was, what kind of message does this send?”