A Louisiana Senate committee on Monday advanced legislation that would remove the permitting requirement for the concealed carrying of handguns.
Senate Bill 118 would allow anyone aged 21 or older to carry a concealed handgun, unless they’re prohibited by state or federal law from owning a firearm.
State Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, the sponsor of the so-called "constitutional carry" proposal, said that citizens shouldn't have to get permission from their government to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. Louisiana currently allows gunowners to carry without a permit if the firearm is visible.
"Some people are not comfortable carrying openly and they shouldn’t have to go before their government and pay fees to get permission to have that right," Morris said.
Opponents of the measure, including several law enforcement officials, worried that lifting the permitting requirements, which mandate at least 9-hours of firearms training, could result in a proliferation of untrained gunowners.
“We strongly oppose any legislation that would create the potential for what could be thousands of untrained individuals bringing weapons to the streets of the City of New Orleans,” wrote NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson in a statement.
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"The bottom line is: we’re not opposed to concealed carry. We’re opposed to concealed carry without education and without training," said Fabian Blache Jr., executive director of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police.
The proposed legislation maintains a requirement that gunowners alert law enforcement of their concealed weapon when approached. Still, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said without the required training, that responsibility may not be fully understood.
"I see this issue an officer safety issue," Paul said.
Dan Zelenka, president of the Louisiana Shooting Association, said that the current permitting process can be cost prohibitive for lower-income residents, noting that the five-year permit costs $125 and the mandatory training can cost up to $200.
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"The permitting system creates a financial barrier to exercising a constitutional right," Zelenka said.
The permitting process wouldn't go away if the measure becomes law. Louisiana's concealed carry permit is valid in dozens of other states, and Zelenka said it can be used in place of a background check when purchasing firearms from certain vendors.
Members of the Senate Judiciary C Committee voted by a 3-2 margin to report the bill favorably to the full Senate. Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, and Sen Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles voted in favor of the bill, with opposition from Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, and Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans.