Gov. John Bel Edwards faces the possibility of dealing with Louisiana’s first veto override session, in part because he vetoed a measure that would allow residents 21 and older to carry, and conceal, firearms without a mandatory background check, without a permit, and without firearms safety training.
All of this is required to carry a concealed firearm now. That’s the way state law enforcement officials say it should be.
We applaud the governor for carefully considering community safety as he rejected the measure.
Police chiefs and sheriffs opposed the legislation. Yet support for the bill was overwhelming. Many Democrats joined Republicans to make it law. The Senate favored it 27-9. The House voted 73-28.
Legislators are betting that most of Louisiana want to see a gun-rights expansion rather than a focus on safety. To now be criticized for his veto is, in Edwards' case, simply ridiculous; he is a hunter and gun-owning defender of Second Amendment rights.
On this bill, he sided with law enforcement officials who said allowing people to conceal guns without qualifications would not help the increasing number of shootings across the state. Unfortunately, ultraconservatives have latched on to a small segment of the electorate that believes in packing, even if people with weapons will be entirely untrained in their use and, most of all, their safe operation.
"Our current system strikes the right balance of ensuring that people can bear arms while also keeping reasonable permitting and training processes in place," the governor wrote in his veto message. "It is a matter of basic public safety and numerous law enforcement leaders across the state opposed the bill for this reason, especially as it relates to the enhanced risk posed to their officers."
Like Edwards, responsible law enforcement leaders look at it differently. "We’re not opposed to concealed carry. We’re opposed to concealed carry without education and without training," Fabian Blache Jr., executive director of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, told lawmakers not long ago.
This is wise counsel from law enforcement. And it is roundly ignored by members of the Legislature of both parties who are pandering to the NRA and those without grounding in common-sense regulation of firearms.
There are a few other bills, like this one, which were passed this year in a wave of rhetoric inspired by national political operatives. Those might inspire a veto session, so far never has never been held under the 1974 Louisiana Constitution.
It will cost taxpayers money, and for what? Overriding the judgment of law enforcement? Polls have suggested that this proposal is not popular with most voters, but politics today seems to be highly focused on agitating narrow segments of the electorate with strong views.
We wonder if, should a veto session occur, promoters of the free-fire bill will find that they have outfoxed themselves, by carrying to absurd lengths the passage of a law that the public finds at best highly questionable.
Maybe that won't happen, if lawmakers pay attention to what law enforcement professionals have to say. But that this bill got as far as the governor's desk is an indicator that the atmosphere in the State Capitol is fixed on agitation more than prudence and good judgment.