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"Firearm activist groups are unhappy with Alabama gun laws," an APR 40th anniversary encore airing

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Joshua Blount
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Alabama Public Radio is turning forty years old. All year long the APR news team is diving into the archive to bring you the best of the best of our coverage. That includes this story from just last year. APR mentors University of Alabama journalism grad students every summer. That includes Joushua Blount. He's a UA grad and he's working as a multimedia journalist at the ABC station in Columbia, Missouri. Joushua produced a story that's noteworthy, one week after the mass shooting in Texas. It has to do with gun safety here in Alabama. Here's that story from the APR archives. And a note to our listeners, this feature makes reference to shooting accidents.

Alabama lawmakers ended their regular session by passing bills on concealed weapons permits. Both measures require firearms training for law enforcement officer, but some activist groups feel that Alabama needs to go beyond that when it comes to gun safety.  

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John McDonald was 13 years old when he was accidently shot in his left side.? 

“I remember falling to the ground, feeling a burning sensation and then all of a sudden feeling hot to my side as the blood was flowing out,” he said. “I grabbed a handful of my coat, shoved in my side and put my arm down. I told the gentleman that I was with which direction to run and get help. At that point I was pretty sure I was not going to make it.” 

McDonald and his friend were leaving the woods when his buddy accidently pulled the trigger on a shotgun. McDonald lost his left kidney, spleen and had damage to his spinal column. He’s now in his 60s and he still suffers from the injuries from his firearm accident. McDonald’s friend didn’t have firearm safety training.? 

Allison Anderman is with the group Gifford’s Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. She doesn’t hold Alabama’s gun policy in high regard, and that includes background checks.

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“I think what’s most concerning is the lack of evidence-based gun safety laws that are supported by the overwhelming majority of all Americans, such as universal background checks,” she said. “Those are background checks on all gun sales not just sales from federally licensed gun dealers. So that is a foundational policy that the state should enact.”? 

The Gifford’s Law Center website lists 13 states currently require universal background checks for all firearm sales. Alabama and the 36 other states only require background checks when sales are made through a federally licensed dealer. Anderman also explained how Alabama’s "stand your ground" law is not in the best interest of minorities and firearm laws in general.? 

“These laws are dangerous, unnecessary and are disproportionately used to exonerate people who shoot black and brown Americans," she said. "Self-defense laws without this extra 'stand your ground' component are perfectly adequate to allow someone to defend themselves if they're being attacked. And these laws have been shown to be racist and to actually increase gun homicides in states where they have them.”? 

The Giffords Law Center was founded after U.S. House Member Gabrielle Giffords was shot while meeting with constituents in Arizona. The center gives Alabama gun laws an F grade.? 

The next bone of contention is a lack of mandatory gun training, even though Alabama is ranked second in the nation for gun deaths.? 

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Students at Central Alabama Firearms Training are getting tips on handling a gun. Some groups feel Alabama firearm laws have shortcomings, but citizens can educate themselves by taking firearm safety classes. These classes are not required though.? 

Scott Recchio is a firearms instructor at Central Alabama Firearms training. He said although he doesn’t like anything being mandatory, learning firearm safety comes with the responsibility of owning a gun.? 

“I personally don’t like anything being mandatory as it relates to the second amendment," he said. “What I do believe is as responsible gun owner. I hope they encourage folks to get training, especially to carry a concealed weapon.”? 

McDonald firmly believes in the rights given by the Second Amendment.

“The Second Amendment says you have the right if you're legal to own a firearm," he said. "I don't believe that the government should have anything to do with us and our training. I do recommend training and with Bama Carry we have different groups that supply that, but I don't think the government has anything to say about it.”? 

Anderman said there are power groups at play with the politics in Alabama, and that could make change difficult and tougher to make it stick.

“I think the influence of the gun lobby on state representative is huge, and representatives are voting in the interests of big industry and their pocketbooks, and not in the best interest of their constituents," she said. "Alabama has an unreasonably high rate of gun violence, and we know from lots of empirical evidence that there is much that can be done to prevent gun violence in Alabama. So, the biggest obstacle is the state Legislature and having the courage to do what is necessary to address this problem."

Joushua Blount is a University of Alabama graduate now working as a multimedia journalist at the ABC-TV station in Columbia, Missouri. During his time being mentored in the Alabama Public Radio newsroom, he produced a feature on gun safety.
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