Gov. John Bel Edwards (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)
Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed legislation this week that would have allowed residents over the age of 21 to carry concealed guns without a permit and without training — a move that has heightened calls from Republican lawmakers for an unprecedented veto override session in July.
“I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and an enthusiastic outdoorsman and hunter. But I simply cannot support carrying a concealed firearm without proper education and safety training — and I believe a majority of Louisianans agree with me,” Edwards said in a statement Friday. “Simply put, it is not too much to ask that a person who wishes to carry a concealed weapon in public be required to attend basic marksmanship and safety training so they understand the regulations associated with such an action.”
Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Sen. Jay Morris (R-West Monroe), would have amended Louisiana’s concealed carry permit law, which requires applicants to pass background checks and pass a nine-hour course that includes live-fire training in order to carry a concealed handgun in public spaces. Louisiana residents can already carry a gun openly in public — referred to as “open carry” — without any special permits as long as the firearm is in plain view.
Morris told reporters Friday that Edwards vetoed his legislation late Thursday night. The veto wasn’t a surprise. The Democratic governor said, back in April, that he would veto the bill if the Louisiana Legislature approved it.
Edwards — who ran on a pro-gun rights platform — said polling indicates the majority of Louisiana residents don’t want people to be able to carry a concealed gun without training. Edwards also said that numerous law enforcement leaders in the state are opposed to the bill. The governor is the son and brother of sheriffs and has a close relationship with the Louisiana Sheriffs Association.
The bill was popular with lawmakers though. The House voted for it 73-28 and the Senate voted for it 27-9 — more than the two-thirds majority needed in each chamber to override the governor’s veto. Republicans and a handful of Democrats supported the legislation.
While common in other states, overriding a governor’s veto in Louisiana is rare. It’s only happened twice in the modern history of the state — and only when the lawmakers’ regular session was still underway. Legislators have never in the modern history of the state called themselves back into a veto override session after their regular session has adjourned.
Either the House or the Senate can block an override session. If the majority of either chamber votes not to return to Baton Rouge, it won’t be held. During former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s last term in office, the House opted to come back in for a veto override session more than once, but the Senate never agreed to do so — so one was never held.
Still, the dynamic between the governor and lawmakers is different than it has been in the past. Edwards is a Democrat and the Legislature is overwhelmingly made up of conservative Republicans. In Louisiana, the governor and lawmakers have rarely been on such different pages philosophically, even if they were members of different parties.
The veto is also the second one this week to draw the ire of Republican lawmakers. On Tuesday, Edwards vetoed another bill that would have prohibited transgender women and and girls from participating in women and girls’ sporting events — which kicked off the push for an override session.
House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-French Settlement, said earlier this week that he wanted a veto override session over the rejection of the transgender restriction — and the House may already have the votes to hold one. There’s less clarity about whether the Senate would support a session.
Morris said he supports an override effort but could not speak for the rest of the Senate. Senate President Page Cortez (R-Lafayette) told a reporter at The Advocate Friday afternoon that he wasn’t going to make a statement about a veto override session until he received formal notice of the vetoes. That may not happen until early July, when the governor is required to send letters to legislators explaining his veto decisions.
“The question is whether the Senate will allow a veto override session to happen,” said Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, who is the head of the House Republican Caucus. “With the addition of the veto of [this] bill, this will likely motivate the Senate to join the House. It will be hard for any Republican member who ran on a pro second amendment platform to explain to their constituents that they can’t stand a fight for our constitutional rights to defend themselves and those they loved.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton), who authored the legislation with transgender restrictions, said she is trying to organize her fellow lawmakers to support an override for her bill and is encouraging members of the public to call their legislators to ask for a veto override session.
“There is a lot of political support for this — not just from political people or religious people,” Mizell said. “It’s from the general public.”
She said she’s not sure that the veto of the constitutional carry bill will necessarily make a veto override session more likely to happen because the people concerned about her transgender sports restriction and the permit-less carry bill overlap.
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