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House committee approves concealed carry without permit in Louisiana

(The Center Square) – Louisiana lawmakers advanced another proposal Wednesday to allow state residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit or training.

Senate Bill 118 by Sen. Jay Morris, a West Monroe Republican, would apply to adults who are at least age 21 and have not been convicted of a felony or violent crime. His bill retains the prohibition against carrying a concealed gun while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Concealed carriers still would be required to disclose that they have a weapon and submit to a search when asked by law enforcement, which would have the right to disarm the carriers.

House Bill 596 by Rep. Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux, has the same goal and is awaiting a Senate committee hearing.  

Supporters of the change argue law-abiding citizens have a constitutional right to carry concealed weapons unless there is a compelling reason to stop them from doing so. Opponents argue that requiring training and a permit to carry a concealed firearm is an appropriate safeguard for the public that falls under the Second Amendment’s call for a “well regulated Militia.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who generally supports gun rights, is opposed to the change. Democratic polling firm ALG Research, working with a pro-Edwards group, found that 80% of state residents favor requiring a permit and training, including 73% of Republicans.

Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, said she had received a flood of emails from people opposed to Morris’ bill and asked him whether he had considered letting voters make the decision. Morris said voters already “overwhelmingly” have approved a state constitutional amendment enacted in 2012 calling for “strict scrutiny” of any restriction of gun rights.

Most of the testimony in the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee came Wednesday from opponents of the change, including representatives of law enforcement and faith-based groups.

“When it comes to constitutional rights, they are not unconstrained,” said Karen White, executive counsel for the Louisiana Municipal Association.

White said Louisiana’s laws around concealed weapons are based on the notion that carriers complete mandatory training and earn a permit. If the permit requirement is removed, lawmakers should revisit the related statutes, she said.