Afraid the statewide bill they support will again die, some Alabama House members are sponsoring bills to clarify that church members in their local counties can use deadly force if threatened.

This is the fourth year Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, has sponsored legislation that clarifies the state’s “stand your ground” law applies inside houses of worship. It says a person is presumed justified in the use of force if they or someone else is in danger.

“A lot of big churches hire security, but little ones can’t afford it,” Greer said.

Opponents of the bill, including Democrats, say it’s not needed because the 2006 “stand your ground” law already applies in churches. Greer’s bill will cause confusion, they say.

The bill has yet to pass the House this session, which is at least halfway completed. In previous sessions, it has died in the Senate.

“There are groups up there (in the Senate), I don’t know, they just don’t like it,” Greer said Wednesday.

Now, Greer and others have filed county-specific bills with the same intent as the statewide bill.

“This is backup in case we can’t pass the state bill,” Greer said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were local bills for Lauderdale, Colbert, Franklin, Limestone, Shelby and Talladega counties. Greer’s Lauderdale bill was approved in the House this week.

A local bill for Bibb County, filed by April Weaver, has not made it out of the local legislative committee for lack of support from Representative Ralph Howard. The Bibb Voice contacted Representative Howard to discuss his position on the church protection act, in particular the local Bibb County bill.

Representative Howard said that he is not in support of the church protection bills in general because they provide immunity to a shooter and he opposes that provision of the proposed acts. Howard said that other laws, such as the “stand your ground law”, protects citizens who use firearms in self defense. Howard feels that additional laws that immunize shooters who may not have adequate training in the use of a firearm sets a dangerous precedent that he cannot support.

Howard went on to say that he is a military veteran, that he supports gun owners, gun owner rights and is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. He also believes in the rights of self-defense however, he says that he is not willing to offer immunity from prosecution in special situations such as the church protection acts would provide.

After talking with Representative Howard The Bibb Voice took up a reading of the proposed legislation offered by Representative Weaver. The proposed legislation reads as follows on the issue of immunity:

  1. (e) A person who uses force, including deadly physical force, as justified and permitted in this amendment is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the force was determined to be unlawful or in violation of Section 13A-3-21 Code of Alabama 1975
  2.  Prior to the commencement of a trial in case in which a defense is claimed under this amendment, the court having jurisdiction over the case, upon motion of the defendant, shall conduct a pretrial hearing to determine whether deadly force, used by the defendant was justified or whether it was unlawful under this amendment. During any pretrial hearing to determine immunity, the defendant must show by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she is immune from criminal prosecution.
  3.  If, after a pretrial hearing under subdivision the court concludes that the defendant has proved by a preponderance of the evidence that force, including deadly force, was justified, the court shall enter an order finding the defendant immune from criminal prosecution and dismissing the criminal charges.

You can read the entire proposed Bibb County bill at this link [HB562]. There appears to be a disconnect between the language of the bill and the position of Representative Howard. It is clear to the Bibb Voice that immunity is not guaranteed in a shooting situation and that a burden of proof still falls upon a possible defendant in a potentially criminal case.

If you feel that your representative, Ralph Howard, should support the local Bibb County legislation you should contact your representative and ask for his support. You can find his contact information at this link. There are a limited number of days left in this legislative session so don’t delay, act now. Ralph Howard.  

Original reference article published by Mary Sell of Alabama Daily News: