Two separate bills moving through the Louisiana Legislature would allow Louisianians to carry concealed weapons without applying for a concealed carry permit along with a third bill that would declare that federal gun restrictions can’t be enforced in Louisiana.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, in a 27-11 vote. The bill would allow people over 21 to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. On Wednesday, the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice approved an almost identical bill in an 8-4 vote. Under current law, one must apply for a concealed carry permit through the Louisiana State Police. That permit requires a background check, a certain amount of firearm safety and basic marksmanship training, and payment of a fee.
Both Tuesday’s vote and Wednesday’s vote mostly stuck to party lines with Republicans for and Democrats against. Sen. Gary Smith of Norco was the only Democrat who voted for the Senate bill. In the House committee, Rep. Joseph Marino, an independent from Gretna, voted with Democrats opposed to that bill.
When asked about the bill last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who has generally supported loosening gun restrictions, said he will veto Morris’ bill if it clears the House and reaches his desk.
Morris and other Republicans argued that the right to carry a concealed gun is unfettered under the Second Amendment. Democrats said they are worried about untrained people carrying and handling guns recklessly.
Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans said the bill would add “just another layer of pressure that may cause yet another” bad shooting. Carter, who was just elected to represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, has said before that he owns more than one gun, often visits the shooting range and has taught his sons to be responsible gun owners.
Morris said he couldn’t speak to how much pressure it would add to someone, but supporters of the bill say that crime will decrease if more of the public is armed.
Both bills propose what are commonly referred to as “constitutional carry,” “permit-less carry,” or “shall-issue” policies.
A SIMILAR HOUSE BILL
In presenting House Bill 596 to the committee, Rep. Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux, pointed to a 2018 RAND Corporation review that he said showed constitutional carry laws do not increase crime.
The research paper he cited was an evaluation of more than a dozen studies that individually looked at the various effects of constitutional carry policies, but it did not reach an overall conclusion such as the one Fontenot said. Rather, the RAND author found that many studies conflicted on how constitutional carry policies affected various categories of crime, but she found some limited evidence showing such policies may increase violent crime.
A 2017 study from the American Public Health Association found that shall-issue concealed carry policies were “significantly associated with 6.5% higher total homicide rates, 8.6% higher firearm homicide rates, and 10.6% higher handgun homicide rates, but were not significantly associated with long-gun or non-firearm homicides.”
“Should the government mandate training to exercise a constitutional right?” Fontenot said of the concealed carry permit law. “I don’t think we have any criminals walking around that has any training.”
Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, said, “I just believe that this puts law enforcement at a disadvantage. When you pull a trigger they have life altering effects on someone’s life….We are putting people in danger when we start talking about permit-less carry for people who are not trained to carry.”
OPPOSING FEDERAL LAW
The House committee, in a separate 8-4 vote, also approved House Bill 118, which would essentially declare invalid any new federal firearm regulation, including any that might limit possession of fully automatic machine guns and high-capacity magazines, among others. The bill’s author, Rep. Larry Frieman, R-Abita Springs, conceded that it would be problematic for the state to oppose federal law.
“It’s really scary to folks to realize that we can lose certain rights by the stroke of a pen,” Frieman said, adding that President Biden’s rhetoric is threatening for many gun enthusiasts.
Lawmakers opposed to Frieman’s bill don’t see it as a mere symbolic gesture. Several committee members expressed concerns about a flood of lawsuits and a loss of federal funding that could result.
The bill states that individuals and entities may be held civilly liable for enforcing a federal firearms regulation. Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, said he was surprised law enforcement community groups didn’t speak out against or express concern with a bill that would allow police officers to be sued for trying to enforce a federal law.
James, one of the supporters of a bill that would allow police officers to be sued for breaking the law by abusing people they encounter, said, “I hope that they won’t be concerned when we talk about qualified immunity.” When still no one spoke up, James added: “It will be noted that none of them are concerned with being sued today.”
“You understand we may lose federal funding because of this?” Marcelle asked Frieman.
“Yes, ma’am,” Frieman said.
“And you’re willing to do that?” Marcelle asked. Frieman said he was.