BATON ROUGE — Dozens of Louisiana law enforcement officers called Thursday on state lawmakers to keep the current concealed carry requirements in place and uphold Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a bill that would scrap the training and permit needed to carry a concealed handgun.
Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said unfettered access to concealed weapons without the current permitting process “not only is going to endanger the law enforcement community, it will endanger the general public as well.”
Edwards struck down legislation by Republican Sen. Jay Morris of Monroe that would have allowed gun owners 21 and older in Louisiana to carry concealed firearms without needing nine hours of training on gun safety, a background check and payment of a fee.
“There is simply no good reason why the State of Louisiana should provide for concealed carry of weapons for people that have no training on how to properly use a gun,” Edwards wrote in his veto message.
Lawmakers are expected to meet later this month for an historic veto session to try to overturn the Democratic governor’s rejection of that measure and other legislation from the regular session that was jettisoned by Edwards.
Thursday’s event featured police chiefs, sheriffs and their deputies. It was aimed to undermine a veto override of the concealed carry bill, putting GOP lawmakers in the uncomfortable position of possibly voting against some of their own police chiefs and sheriffs. The news conference included law enforcement leaders from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Iberville Parish, St. John the Baptist Parish, Jefferson Davis Parish, St. Gabriel and other locations around the state.
But even the law enforcement community is divided about Morris’ legislation.
The Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the bill and objects to an override, but the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association didn’t take a position on the bill. Only a dozen of Louisiana’s 64 sheriffs attended the news conference opposing the veto override, and the sheriffs didn’t publicly try to kill the bill as it was moving through the House and Senate.
Morris said his police chief in West Monroe supports the removal of the permitting requirements.
Lawmakers passed the legislation with bipartisan, veto-proof majorities, but it’s unclear if all the lawmakers will agree to override Edwards’ decision. Lawmakers have only overturned two gubernatorial vetoes — and have never held a veto override session — under the current state constitution enacted in 1974. Though the veto session appears likely, Republicans who are in the majority don’t have enough votes alone to override a veto.
Supporters of Morris’ bill, filed as Senate Bill 118, call the measure a protection of gun owners’ 2nd Amendment rights and individual liberties. Among the legislation’s supporters are the NRA, the National Association for Gun Rights and other gun owners’ organizations.
“To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, the Louisiana Legislature must overturn the governor’s veto and restore the God given rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, said in a statement Thursday.
He said the organization “is mobilizing members across Louisiana to encourage legislators to join its neighboring states” and become the 22nd state to pass the permit-less concealed carry legislation.
Opponents of the bill say removal of the permitting requirements could lead to more unnecessary shootings and deaths. Webre, the Lafourche Parish sheriff, said it could embolden untrained people to act like citizen vigilantes, unnecessarily escalating minor incidents into deadly ones.
“I’m a strong 2nd Amendment person, but I don’t agree with this bill whatsoever,” said East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, calling it a “dangerous, dangerous bill.”