I was 20 years old when I first stepped foot on an Air Force firing range. I recall the cacophony of instructions shouted through megaphones, air horn blasts and semi-automatic weapons fire. I can still see the arrow-straight lines of uniformed trainees, standing erect and obeying orders.
I didn’t even shoot that day. I learned the rules of the range, elements of my weapons, safety protocols, and the consequences if I didn’t follow the range NCO’s precise instructions. No one fires a single round in the military until they are fully trained.
I expect the same from my home state of Louisiana. When my friends and neighbors exercise their Second Amendment rights that I fought to protect, I expect them to do it safely and responsibly. The state currently requires completion of a hands-on firearm safety course — including live-fire training — before a person can get a permit to carry a concealed handgun. This is not a high bar. Any reasonably competent gun owner can earn a concealed carry permit, and therefore carry a gun in public.
But that might not be the law for long. There are currently bills (House Bill 596 and Senate Bill 118) moving in the Legislature that would legalize the permitless carry of a concealed weapon.
As a veteran, these proposed laws simply floor me. Why wouldn’t we want people in our state to uphold the strongest standards of safety, much like the standards in place for our nation’s fighting force?
I served 38 years in the Air Force, including seven years in the Louisiana Air National Guard conducting security operations. Over that time, I learned how to disassemble and reassemble guns, how to clean guns, how to fire guns and how to securely store guns. Most importantly, I learned how to respect guns. The military’s gun culture is built on the pillars of training, safety and accountability.
So as a veteran, Louisiana’s existing concealed carry laws make sense to me. They are a line of defense to ensure that the people who carry a concealed weapon complete training designed to keep the public safe.
Louisianans agree with these laws. In the state, 86% of Republicans and 85% of gun-owning households support requiring a permit to carry a handgun in public.
They support this requirement because it makes sense. Everyone knows someone who has problems with impulse control. You know who I mean. Maybe she drinks too much. Maybe he gets in fistfights too often. Maybe they are not a trustworthy person.
Now stop and realize that person might soon be able to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, background check or safety training. That person could be in your neighborhood or around your children with a loaded weapon.
Local law enforcement agrees that permitless carry is dangerous; the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police has come out against the bills. Firearm trainers also oppose the bills. And any military veteran who served honorably knows that permitless concealed carry with no training is a recipe for more gun violence in our state.
Legislators should listen to the scores of law enforcement officers, faith leaders, gun owners, the overwhelming majority of the public, and veterans, like me, who know that this dangerous bill would make our state less safe. They should reject permitless carry.
Psychologist Tammy Savoie of New Orleans is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.