File photo. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator).
The Louisiana Senate’s “constitutional carry” bill, which would allow the carrying of a concealed gun without a permit, cleared the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.
Sponsored by Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, Senate Bill 118 would allow people to freely carry a hidden gun without any permit or training, though the bill would offer residents the opportunity to take a voluntary one-hour online course. Currently, Louisiana’s concealed carry permit law requires applicants to pass background checks and pass a nine-hour course that includes live-fire training.
When it was introduced last month, proponents of the legislation, mostly Republicans, argued that such laws are a hindrance on Second Amendment rights, while Democrats and other opponents said it’s dangerous for an untrained person to carry a concealed gun.
The Senate passed the measure on April 27 in a 27–11 vote. It advanced from the House committee on Wednesday in a party-line vote of 6–4 and was reported to the House floor for consideration.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who has generally supported loosening gun restrictions, previously said he will veto Morris’ bill if it reaches his desk.
A nearly identical version, House Bill 596, was already approved by the House on May 5 and is currently pending in the Senate.
Wednesday’s committee heard much less debate on the issue as both sides had previously argued their points during previous committee meetings. Proponents such as the National Rifle Association and its affiliate, the Louisiana Shooting Association, did not testify.
Morris said the permit law only prevents law-abiding citizens from carrying guns and does nothing to stop criminals who are going to carry guns regardless of what the law says.
Rep. Ted James said that carrying a concealed gun may be a liberty for Morris, who is White, but he said he fears what might happen if a Black man is pulled over and tries to disclose to the officer that he is exercising “constitutional carry.”
“This bill preserves the obligation of somebody to disclose to a police officer,” Morris said in response.
“I think that’s where your understanding is fading. If you are pulled over and you said that, I wouldn’t fear you going home, (but) if I’m pulled over and I don’t have this pin on,” James said, pointing to his legislator’s lapel pin, “I fear me, Rep. (Marcus) Bryant and Rep.(Frederick) Jones going home. That’s my concern.” (James, Bryant and Jones are Black).
“If somebody is going to pull a gun on an individual and shoot them, I don’t think it matters whether the person has a permit or not or is concealed carry or not,” Morris replied. “I think that’s a separate issue.”
The Louisiana Municipal Association and the Louisiana Chiefs of Police Association oppose permitless concealed carry. However, the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association has not opposed it.
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