An effort to allow Louisiana gun owners to carry concealed weapons without permits received strong pushback from a House panel on Wednesday.
The House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee effectively stalled the bills that would have let voters decide whether concealed handguns should require a license, as state law stipulates, after raising several questions about the intent and potential effects.
“You know, they say ‘KISS — keep it simple, stupid,’ but I think this isn’t one we can do that with,” said Rep. Tony Bacala, a Prairieville Republican who is a retired sheriff’s deputy.
Bacala said he supports the idea behind the proposal, but he also had concerns about safety training requirements.
“We need to approach this one more cautiously,” he said, offering up a proposal that would have kept the bill alive so concerns could be addressed but that was ultimately rejected by the committee.
Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge, had pushed the legislation, arguing that permits shouldn’t be needed for concealed weapons when the state doesn’t require the same licensing for open carry.
“Our nation is founded on freedom,” Ivey said. “I question the constitutionality of requiring a concealed carry permit.”
At least seven states — Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, Wyoming and Vermont — don’t require a permit for concealed carry in public. Idaho is slated to join that list July 1 and West Virginia on June 5. The Mississippi Legislature has approved a similar bill, and it’s expected to be signed by the governor there.
The effort — which supporters typically refer to as “constitutional carry” — has been gaining momentum in recent years.
Several advocates for and against the expansion of concealed carry laws argued their cases to the Louisiana House committee before it moved to defer the bills — a procedural move that often signals the end of the legislative road.
Both sought to make it legal for someone to possess a concealed handgun without any form of permit or license, unless the person is prohibited from possessing a firearm under another state law. Concealed carry without a permit is a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine or up to six months in prison.
Ivey likened the change to people carrying guns openly — strapped to their side in plain view — versus people wearing jackets that partially obscure their weapons, which would be illegal without a permit under current law.
“Really, that’s all we are doing,” Ivey said.
But several members raised concern about expanding gun laws without more requirements for safety training and accounting for other concerns.
“Nothing that I’ve heard has changed my mind,” said Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia.
The effort was opposed by several law enforcement groups and officers, including the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, district attorneys and police chiefs
One opponent of the change turned in a thick stack of sealed letters from mayors and police chiefs from across the state.
“We think this is a really dangerous bill,” said Victoria Coy, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
Supporters of the proposal argued that the permitting system affects only law-abiding citizens and can be cost-prohibitive.
A five-year concealed handgun permit in Louisiana costs $125, or gun owners can seek a lifetime permit for $500.
Under state law, only people 21 years and older can apply for permits, and they must undergo safety training and some background checks.
Hammond resident Thomas Davis said he went through the training but dropped his effort to obtain a concealed handgun permit when he got to the application process and faced questions about divorces and past arrests.
“It’s quite lengthy, and it wanted me to divulge my previous divorces,” he said. “I didn’t think that was anyone’s business.”
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp.
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