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Louisiana lawmakers advance permitless concealed carry gun bill

Feb 22, 2024, 3:21 PM

FILE - The Louisiana state Capitol stands on April 4, 2023, in Baton Rouge, La. Under a new era of ...

FILE - The Louisiana state Capitol stands on April 4, 2023, in Baton Rouge, La. Under a new era of conservative leadership, Louisiana’s GOP-dominated legislature will gather Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, for a special legislative session that could reshape the state’s criminal justice system and the public safety sector. (AP Photo/Stephen Smith, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Stephen Smith, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is one step closer to joining the list of states that allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit, as Republican lawmakers advanced legislation Thursday during a special session that was called to address violent crime.

Legislators also greenlighted a bill that would provide a level of immunity from civil liability for someone who uses a concealed firearm to shoot a person in self-defense.

The Senate approved both measures on party-line votes, sending them to the House, where the GOP holds a two-thirds supermajority. Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry has already signaled that he plans to sign the bills if they reach his desk.

Gun rights advocates have dubbed the measure that would allow adults 18 and older to carry concealed handguns without a permit as a “constitutional carry bill,” saying that current permitting requirements are unconstitutional. Those requirements include being fingerprinted and paying a fee.

“The Second Amendment is our God-given right to bear arms and defend our families,” said GOP state Sen. Blake Miguez, who wrote the concealed carry bills approved in his chamber. “No more begging the government to get permission to protect what’s ours.”

Miguez and other Republicans argued that criminals ignore gun requirements and that law-abiding citizens should be allowed to carry concealed weapons without a permit to protect themselves. Democrats say the measure could lead to more gun violence and jeopardize public safety.

Lawmakers are considering a slew of “tough-on-crime” policies during their short session. They include expanding methods for death row executions, harsher sentencing for certain crimes, restricting or eliminating the opportunity of parole for certain offenders and mandating that 17-year-olds be tried as adults when charged with a felony.

Twenty-seven states, including all that border Louisiana, allow people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, according to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association

Opponents of the bill pointed to Louisiana’s high rate of gun violence that they feel could worsen with the bill. The state had the country’s second-highest rate of gun-related deaths in 2021 with 1,314, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figure includes suicides and homicides.

“This is by far one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation that’s about to pass out of this building,” Democratic Sen. Royce Duplessis said Thursday.

Duplessis cited a letter from the Louisiana Fraternal Order of Police, which opposes the bill. The letter says permits are a “clear mechanism for tracking and regulating concealed firearms” and removing the process could “increase the likelihood of firearms ending up in the possession of those who pose a danger to themselves.”

Additionally, law enforcement officers worry the legislation could increase the number of dangerous situations they face. Police associations and organizations that have offered opinions on the bill have either taken a neutral stance or opposed it.

Louisiana has been close to enacting a permitless concealed carry law before. In 2021, the GOP-dominated Legislature passed a bill that was vetoed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. At the start of this month’s special session, Landry told lawmakers, “Now, you have a governor who will sign it.”

Miguez’s bill would take effect on July 4.

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Louisiana lawmakers advance permitless concealed carry gun bill