Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to sign three bills lifting gun restrictions should have come as no surprise to his supporters or local leaders in the Democratic Party, two political analysts say. House Bills 140 and 334 and 781, all which take effect Aug. 1, overturn city and parish ordinances that ban firearms in public parks and places that sell alcohol, prevent local governments from restricting firearm sales during declared emergencies and allow citizens to carry firearms into churches that allow it.
All sponsored by Republicans, two of the three bills passed with a veto-proof majority, though Edwards would have likely signed them all regardless.
“Louisiana is a very pro-gun state,” said Louisiana political analyst John Couvillon. “Governor Edwards deviates from the party line when it comes to guns and abortion.”
The governor’s approval of the bills drew criticism from some local leaders, including East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, who told the Advocate it would not help reduce gun violence in the capital. Baton Rouge bans guns on parks and playgrounds and places where alcohol is sold. During November’s gubernatorial contest between Edwards and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone, Edwards won 66 percent of the vote in East Baton Rouge. He won 90 percent of the vote in New Orleans, which also has imposed its own local gun restrictions.
Other cities with their own gun restrictions include Lafayette, Hammond, Mandeville and Kenner.
Edwards governing to the right of voters in the places where his support was strongest should not surprise anyone in Louisiana, Couvillon said, and will likely leave no sour feelings among his voter base.
“Governor Edwards has always campaigned as being pro-gun,” he said. “I don’t really see it affecting his support. I think even the most liberal Democrat would give him a pass because it’s much tougher for Democrats to get elected statewide in Louisiana.”
Xavier University sociology professor Silas Lee agreed.
“John Bel is a hybrid Democrat,” Lee said in an email. “He is a strong Democrat but not afraid to show his independence because he knows all politics is local. And supporting a gun rights bill in Louisiana is supported by voters here.”
The new law will make gun restrictions uniform across the state. Supporters of the bill pointed out that various local restrictions made it confusing for law-abiding gun carriers as they travelled between jurisdictions.
Current statewide gun restrictions prohibit the carrying of firearms in police stations, jails, courthouses, the State Capitol, airports, schools and government meeting rooms.