Thursday, April 18, 2024

Bill allowing permitless concealed carry in Louisiana heads to the governor’s desk for signature

by BIZ Magazine

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A bill allowing Louisiana residents, 18 and older, to carry a concealed handgun without a permit received final approval from lawmakers Wednesday.

After years of GOP-led efforts for permitless concealed carry, the bill is poised to become law with Gov. Jeff Landry signaling that he plans to sign the legislation. Upon the Republican’s signature, Louisiana would become the 28th state that allows people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, according to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association. However, it would be only one of a handful of states where the law would apply to those as young as 18.

The proposed law will allow eligible people to carry guns hidden in their clothing without having to pay for a government permit, having their fingerprints taken or completing a firearm training course — which are all currently required.

Legislators also greenlit a bill that would provide a level of immunity from civil liability for someone who holds a concealed carry permit and uses their firearm to shoot a person in self-defense.

Under the permitless concealed carry bill, those who legally own a gun would still be restricted from carrying it in certain areas, including schools, churches, police stations, courthouses and the Capitol.

Supporters of the legislation, which was brought forth during a special legislative session that Landry called to address violent crime in the state, routinely describe the measure as a “constitutional carry bill” — arguing that the current permitting requirements are unconstitutional.

However, this session, proponents of permitless concealed carry also put a particular focus on a need and right for citizens to protect themselves against criminals who ignore laws, saying that “evil is everywhere” and “police alone can not protect us.” This session, lawmakers are considering a slew of “tough-on-crime” policies during their short session — ranging from expanding death row execution methods, charging 17-year-olds as adults and eliminating the opportunity of parole for most jailed in the future.

“People are getting raped, murdered, carjacked and assaulted,” said Louisiana state Rep. Mike Johnson. “A vote for this bill today gives the citizens of Louisiana the right to defend themselves.”

Deep South Democrats, some of whom own guns and have gone through the process to obtain concealed carry permits, say that while they support the Second Amendment, they have concerns over a lack of training that would be required for those wishing to carry a gun. In addition, they opposed the age for the bill being 18.

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.

In addition, some police departments and the Louisiana Fraternal Order of Police have opposed the bill — saying that removing the process could “increase the likelihood of firearms ending up in the possession of those who pose a danger to themselves.”

Law enforcement officers also worry the legislation could increase the number of dangerous situations they face.

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 then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat. At the start of this month’s special session, Gov. Landry told lawmakers, “Now, you have a governor who will sign it.”

If the bill is signed by Landry, the law would take effect on July 4.

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