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A bill that would allow Louisiana citizens to carry a concealed firearm without a permit advanced through the House Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday.
Sponsored by state Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, Senate Bill 118 applies to adults who are at least age 21 and have not been convicted of a felony or violent crime, according to the Bossier Press-Tribune.
The bill would allow people to freely carry a hidden gun without any permit or training, though it was amended by the House committee to include an optional training course, reports said. It now matches the goal of HB 596, written by Rep. Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux. Fontenot’s bill is awaiting a Senate committee hearing.
SB 118 also states that a gun holder cannot have a blood-alcohol level above .05 and must notify any police officer who approaches them.
Supporters of the bill argue that law-abiding citizens have a right to carry concealed weapons under the Second Amendment unless there is a compelling reason to stop them from carrying. Opponents called for more education than the optional course, while arguing that requiring training and a permit to carry a concealed firearm is a necessary safeguard.
Most of the testimony in the committee Wednesday came from opponents of the change, reports said.
“We’re not against concealed carry. We just believe it has to be supported with education and training,” said Mike Knaps of the Louisiana Chiefs Association of Police, according to the LSU Manship School News Service.
State Rep. Frederick Jones, D-Monroe, argued the bill would hurt the Black community because some Black people believe they are already perceived as threats to law enforcement.
“I wish you were more sensitive to the third of the state, or more, of people who have horrible interactions with police enforcement,” Jones told Morris. “Nothing to do with them being criminals, nothing to do with them being bad people, they’re just in a bad situation. They are a minority, dealing with police.”
Karen White, executive counsel for the Louisiana Municipal Association, noted that when “it comes to constitutional rights, they are not unconstrained,” according to the Bossier Press-Tribune.
When discussing HB 596 this month, Fontenot argued that State Police spend about $700,000 on the permitting process – including background checks – and collect about $5 million per year.
“I believe that training should be required but the constitution says we have the right to possess firearms,” he told the House, according to The Advocate. “Honest citizens should not be burdened with background checks.”
The committee advanced SB 118 in a 6-4 vote, with Democrats and one independent opposing, LSU Manship School News Service reported.
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