‘DIP math’ vs. ‘Montgomery math’ – Mobile-area sheriffs say reimbursements falling short of pistol fee losses

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 6:31 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Sheriffs on both sides of Mobile Bay say they are getting far less than they expected from a grant program meant to reimburse them for lost revenue arising from the repeal of a pistol permit law.

The new law, which makes pistol permits voluntary for people who carry concealed guns, contains a multimillion-dollar fund to make up for the loss of fees that sheriffs collect to process those permit applications. The idea was to keep the money flowing for three years for purposes like training and equipment, giving departments time to adjust and find other revenue sources.

But Mobile County Sheriff Paul Burch, who opposed the repeal, said the money is falling short.

“My definition of reimburse is not same as theirs,” he told FOX10 News. “We got our first check for a 240-something-thousand-dollar loss. We got $62,000. So, that’s not reimbursement.”

That check was for the period from October through December, when fewer people were getting permits in anticipation of the repeal taking effect Jan. 1. Burch said the figure is based on a formula he does not understand.

“My math, which, you know, is DIP math, is not same as Montgomery math,” he said.

Burch said he does not want to over-emphasize the monetary issue because his primary concern always has been about public safety. But he said less permit fee revenue means less money for training and equipment.

He is not alone. Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack said his department uses pistol permit fees for items like bulletproof vests and to replace equipment like body cameras. He said he also does not understand how the reimbursement formula is supposed to work and added that he has put training and equipment in as a line item in the budget he submits to the Baldwin County Commission.

The Sheriff’s Office, Mack said, experienced a $55,000 decline during the last three months of 2022 compared to the same three months the previous year. He said the state sent $4,700.

Mack said the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the state agency charged with handling the reimbursements, has promised the full loss for the fiscal year will be covered by Oct. 1.

“We were told that the monies will be whole by the end of the year,” he said. “I just can’t fathom how that’s gonna work out.”

In response to a question from FOX10 News, an ADECA spokesman explained the process in general terms – the department sends reimbursements quarterly to county commissions, which then pass the funds to sheriff’s offices. But he did not explain how the funding formula works or why Mobile and Baldwin received so much less than they expected.

It’s not just the fees, according to the sheriffs. Mack says deputies have seen more young people carrying guns since the law took effect and more people who mistakenly think they can take guns to places where firearms remain prohibited. He also said there are potential compatibility issues with a statewide database set up to allow instant checks of whether people are barred by law from having a gun.

“When you have a different program that’s transmitting data to another program, you have to connect those programs and you’re to run into the glitches, the lack of communication,” he said.

The database went live just as the pistol permit repeal was taking effect. Its creation came from a different law, but pro-repeal legislators pointed to it in an effort to assuage concerns that people who illegally possess guns would go free without the permit requirement in place. Mack said he believes not all of the background check information from all police agencies is getting into the database.

“I can’t put my finger on it just yet to say that’s definitely occurring,” he said. “I feel like it is probably occurring, just from conversations that we’ve had with other agencies and some of our agency partners.”

Mack said he believes the Legislature is addressing one issue. The law repealing the permit requirement requires drivers to notify police, when asked, if they have a gun. But it did not include any penalties. Mack said a pending bill makes it a Class A misdemeanor.

Burch said he wishes the Legislature would do not than make minor changes. He said the nightmare scenario is that a law enforcement officer finds a suspicious person with a concealed gun but has not legal reason to stop him, and then he goes on to commit a murder hours later.

“It’s gonna happen,” he said. “Not a matter of if, but when. It’s gonna happen.”