Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards was among dozens of law enforcement officers who called on legislators to keep the current concealed carry requirements in place.
The lawmen rallied in Baton Rouge last week to urge lawmakers to uphold Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a bill that would scrap the training and permit needed to carry a concealed handgun.
If Senate Bill 118 is enacted, anyone 21 years old and older could carry concealed handguns without regard to any education or training whatsoever, Sheriff Edwards said.
“Our law currently allows open carry and conceal carry with relatively minimal educational and training requirements that also teach how to responsibly handle and store firearms,” he said.
“Our deputies have enough to worry about now, and the thought of more people carrying concealed weapons with no training is very concerning to them and me and creates a serious risk to public safety,” Sheriff Edwards said.
“I urge all legislators to realize that this is a serious matter and it’s no time to play politics and I urge them to uphold the governor’s veto,” he added.
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.”
In his veto message, Governor Edwards aid, “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.”
In addition to Tangipahoa Parish, the news conference Thursday 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.
The law enforcement community is divided about the 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. The sheriffs didn’t publicly try to kill the bill as it was moving through the House and Senate.
Ponchatoula’s Police Chief Bry Layrisson said he is among those who do not support the veto.
“I support all law-abiding citizens’ right to bear arms,” he said Friday. “Elected officials should be passing tougher laws on the convicted offenders who are caught as repeat offenders. Those individuals are causing the majority of violent crimes in our community.”
Hammond Police Chief Edwin Bergeron Jr. said he did not attend the rally as he as been very busy working on police cases in Hammond. Chief Bergeron added that he tries to avoid all state and national politics and does not plan to take a position on this state political issue.
Lawmakers are expected to meet later this month for a 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.
All Tangipahoa Parish’s lawmakers voted in support of the bill.
It is 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 the bill 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.
Reported by Melinda Deslatte of The Associated Press and Lil Mirando of The Daily Star.