BATON ROUGE — Louisiana residents may soon be able to carry concealed handguns without a permit after a bill passed through the House Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday.
Opponents of the bill, including a police chief and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for more education than the optional one-hour long course that the State Police will create.
“We’re not against concealed carry. We just believe it has to be supported with education and training,” said Mike Knaps of the Louisiana Chiefs Association of Police.
The bill, SB 118, written by Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, had nothing regarding training when it passed the Senate but was amended by the House committee to include the optional training. The bill now matches the goal of HB 596, written by Rep. Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux, who sits on the committee. Fontenot’s bill is scheduled for a final vote in the House Thursday.
After lengthy testimony from opponents, Fontenot gave rapid-fire questions to Morris to detail their side of the argument, including that 20 other states have constitutional carry laws and crime has not risen after implementation. Also, Vermont has had constitutional carry since 1790 and is one of the safest states.
The bill states the gun holder may not have a blood-alcohol level above .05 and must notify any police officer who approaches them.
Rep. Frederick Jones, D-Monroe, said the bill would hurt the black community given that some blacks believe they are already perceived as threats to law enforcement.
“I wish you were more sensitive to the third of the state, or more, of people who have horrible interactions with police enforcement,” Jones told Morris. “Nothing to do with them being criminals, nothing to do with them being bad people, they’re just in a bad situation. They are a minority, dealing with police.”
Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, the chairman of the committee, told Morris he objects to the bill because he also fears for the lives of his black constituents who will deal with police pulling them over and perceiving a threat.
James pointed to the pin on his suit jacket that all Senate members wear, saying that he fears driving home without it.
The bill passed 6-4, with three opposing votes coming from Democrats and one independent, Rep. Joseph Marino from Gretna.
Marino said he had talked to Morris over dinner and told him not having mandatory training was “a really big concern of mine.”