Recently, I took a trip to Birmingham, Alabama. As I typically carry my holstered pistol out in plain view, this was an excellent opportunity to test those bans on public property. If we only carry concealed, how will local officials know that their signs banning firearms do not have the force of law?
Keep in mind that certain public property is specified as off-limits under state law, such as jails, courthouses, etc. These buildings don't need to meet any special criteria to have firearms legally banned.
So without further ado, here is my open carry report for those who are interested in exercising their rights in the great state of Alabama:
1. Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Here is a photo of me and my little girl with their rules sign at the open gates taken on a Saturday:
I learned sometime that day that all workers on the weekends are volunteers, and no one said anything about my firearm. It just so happened that my wife wanted to go back the next Monday to visit a couple of areas we didn't get to. Now was the real test, since the workers there would be actual employees.
While my wife and children were out and about, I needed to use the restroom, and decided to use the one in the main building. As I was walking by the reception window to the right of me, the lady there asked me in a surprised tone what I had on my hip. As I was carrying two cameras strapped on me, I held them and playfully said, "My cameras?".
She said, "No, on your other hip."
I said, "Oh, that's my firearm."
"I don't think we allow those in here", she said.
"It's okay, I'm licensed to carry." (I know you can openly carry in Alabama without a license, but it's just easier sometimes to cut to the chase and admit you are licensed to carry).
"Isn't there a sign at the entrance", she said.
"Not on the door here, but I think there's one down there", I said pointing. (There was no sign on the main building door, and I couldn't remember if I had seen the one inside further down, or outside. Turns out the sign is outside on the pillar in the middle of the gate.)
"Anyway, it doesn't matter. State law is state law", I said, as I continued on about my business.
I later returned to the same building to wait for my wife to complete her picture taking, and never saw any police. I guess they realized they could not ban firearms with just a sign.
On the sign above: "Do not bring weapons, firearms, or explosives of any kind"
On their website: "Weapons, firearms, fireworks or explosives of any kind are prohibited"
Note: While at BBG Saturday, I did want to visit the Birmingham Zoo, and we stood in line for 15 minutes, but it looked like another 45 minute wait, so we nixed that idea. I wanted to test their website ban on firearms. I didn't get close enough to see if there were any signs.
2. Southern Museum of Flight. They had a small gun buster sign on the glass door, but because I saw a uniformed guard inside, I put my pistol in the trunk of my car.
A guard and a sign are not sufficient by themselves to make public property off-limits. State law also requires physical barriers and metal detectors, but I was spooked a little and decided I'd avoid any trouble and file a complaint later with the Attorney General, Luther Strange.
3. Birmingham Museum of Art. No gun buster or any other signs on the glass doors. However, after walking inside the first set of glass doors, I saw a sign on the left hand wall which stated that firearms are prohibited. And I saw a uniformed guard inside.
This time, I decided to chance it and carried openly right on inside.
Said hello to the friendly guard at the desk and he chatted with me and my wife about the museum, giving us some helpful information. He never mentioned my clearly visible firearm, nor did at least one other guard which saw me later on. These guards were also unarmed. So much for any real and immediate protection from armed bad guys if needed - except for me, and anyone else that may have been carrying concealed past the sign.
4. Rickwood Caverns State Park - I knew this would be a slam dunk, as state parks are good to always carry in, but wasn't sure how they'd react to me carrying a gun inside the caverns on a tour. My family was the only one there for the 3:00pm tour, and the two young ladies that took us on the tour never batted an eye. Good on them!
5. Ruffner Mountain Nature Center - Their website says, "No guns", but there were no signs, no guards, no barriers, and no metal detectors. The nice lady there I spoke with never mentioned my gun on my side. This is one of those situations where you have a website bluff to scare away carriers (or rather force them to conceal), but it didn't work this time.
6. Vulcan Park. Under Park Rules on their website they have, "Please refrain from carrying firearms within the boundaries of Vulcan Park and Museum." I openly carried in both the museum and the elevator, and went to the top to take photos. No signs, guards, metal detectors, or physical barriers. What is it with these websites? LOL
7. Aldridge Botanical Gardens. Recently, every single webpage on their site had, "No firearms" at the bottom. I emailed several Hoover officials who never replied, but they did change their website to remove any references to firearms. When I visited, there were no signs and I had no problems carrying there.
I have to say that I really enjoyed my visit this year to Alabama. My first visit was five years ago, and at that time I was carrying concealed-only, as I was not that familiar with the law there. This time I was prepared, and thoroughly enjoyed the public exercise of my firearm carry rights.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange will be getting my notarized official complaints regarding signs at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham Museum of Art, and Southern Museum of Flight.
It wouldn't hurt if other folks filed for the same places. There is strength in numbers!