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Senate passes concealed carry bill

Morris, Luneau at odds over gun deregulation
Thursday, April 29, 2021
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Photo courtesy of the Louisiana Senate

Sen. Jay Luneau (left) and Sen. Jay Morris, both of whom represent parts of Lincoln Parish, were on opposite sides of Morris’ bill that would allow people to carry a concealed handgun in Louisiana without a permit, so long as they aren’t barred from possessing a weapon by other state or federal laws.

The Louisiana Senate on Tuesday voted in favor of a bill by a local legislator that would allow state residents and visitors to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.

Senate Bill 118 by Sen. Jay Morris (R-Monroe) would make the current permitting process optional for anyone 21 or older, except for those already ineligible to possess a firearm by state or federal law, such as those convicted of or under indictment for a violent crime.

The bill passed 27-11 on the Senate floor Tuesday almost completely on party lines and will move next to the House. Gov. John Bel Edwards has already said he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk, which could only be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Legislature.

“Senate Bill 118 is not a big step for Louisiana, as some might lead you to believe,” said Morris, whose district includes part of Lincoln Parish. “... This bill is simply for law-abiding citizens to exercise the right that was given them under the Constitution.”

Currently one must take several hours of training, pay a fee to the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections and receive a permit from that office in order to legally carry a concealed firearm.

Under this bill, the permitting process would remain intact but would no longer be required. Some may still choose to take it in order to legally concealed carry in other states that have reciprocity agreements with Louisiana.

Detractors of the bill pointed to the potential danger of allowing anyone to carry a concealed weapon without training. Among them was Sen. Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria), who also represents part of Lincoln Parish.

“I own a lot of guns. I trained my kids on gun safety when they were young,” Luneau said. “But they couldn’t go out into the woods with me to shoot a squirrel until they took a hunter’s safety course. Why should we require those folks that want to go hunting to have training, but we let people carry a gun in almost any circumstance in the public without a lick of training?”

Morris replied that it’s a constitutional right to do so.

“It’s part of freedom and liberty,” he said.

“And our freedom and liberty should be exercised with a big dose of common sense, and I think that’s what we’re lacking here,” Luneau replied.

The Louisiana Chiefs of Police Association has come out against the legislation, citing concerns for officer safety. But Morris claimed he had heard from many law enforcement offices that they supported the bill. The bill also retains current law that requires someone who is carrying a concealed gun to notify a police officer of that fact if approached by the officer.

Requests for comment on the bill from the Lincoln Parish Sheriff ’s Office and Ruston Police Department were not returned by press time.

Luneau backed an amendment by Sen. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) that would have required people to attend a local firearm safety course of their choosing before being able to carry a concealed gun, rather than registering with the state.

But that change was defeated by a 26-12 vote, with Morris claiming it would simply replace one permitting system with another.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, doing away with the permitting requirements could create revenue loss for the state treasury of up to $4.1 mil lion due to fewer people paying for a permit. Local public defender offices would also face an indirect loss of revenue because no one would be going to court with charges of concealed carrying without a permit.

Bills with such fiscal notes are supposed to go to the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Commitee before a full Senate vote, but Morris successfully motioned to suspend that rule.

Morris was questioned at length by Sen. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) and others on possible “unintended consequences” of allowing untrained people to carry concealed weapons, such as accidental shootings and the absence of background checks that could have discovered if a person has a violent history.

In reply, Morris said his bill is “about freedom and liberty.”

“Sometimes we make sacrifices when we have a free society,” he said.