A Louisiana Senate Committee advanced a controversial bill Tuesday that would allow adults over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm without a license or training.
The Senate Judiciary B Committee signed off on House Bill 131 by Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City, on a 4-1 vote, with committee Chair Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, being the sole vote opposed. Sen. Gregory Tarver, D-Shreveport, joined Republicans in supporting the bill.
The bill is similar to one McCormick advanced last year, which stalled in the Senate in the wake of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. This is the fourth time he has offered the proposal.
McCormick’s legislation, which he referred to as a “constitutional carry” bill, is based on a conservative position that the U.S. Constitution allows a firearm to be carried without a permit. It would eliminate all training and background check requirements to carry a concealed weapon in Louisiana.
“House Bill 131 will restore the Second Amendment in Louisiana,” McCormick told committee members.
The bill was amended by the committee to only apply to those over the age of 21. A previous version of the bill would have allowed anyone 18 or older to carry a concealed firearm without a license.
Smith, who said he has a concealed firearm license, made his opposition known from the start.
“OK, let’s take on the Wild Wild West,” he said as McCormick walked up to the table to present his bill.
Comparisons to the Wild West have been a popular talking point among Democrats opposed to the bill.
The bill was opposed by several progressive organizations, including Louisiana Progress and Moms Demand Action, law enforcement groups and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Allowing anyone who is not prohibited from possessing a firearm under any federal or state law to conceal a firearm enhances the already existing danger to the lives of our law enforcement officers,” said Fabian Blache, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police.
Tom Costanza, executive director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, argued the bill is not pro-life.
“It is the position of the bishops to oppose permitless carry because it will remove important and reasonable safeguards to protect human life,” he said.
“The current system of training promotes a culture of responsibility and a level of comprehensive training commenced with one’s right to conceal a gun,” Costanza added.
The bill was supported by the National Rifle Association. A representative for Louisiana Gun Owners, a gun rights advocacy organization, withdrew his support after the committee raised the age.
“Criminals already carry a firearm without regard for the law. This bill isn’t for them. This legislation simply puts the law-abiding citizens of Louisiana on equal footing,” NRA state director Kelby Seanor said.
Because the bill will lead to a $4.4 million annual decrease in state permit revenue, it will likely go before the Senate Finance Committee, although the Senate could opt to discharge the bill from the committee without a vote.
McCormick’s bill has to receive Senate backing as well as House approval on amendments before the legislature adjourns June 8. If not acted upon immediately, the legislation faces a constitutional provision that requires three-quarters of each chamber to approve calling a bill for a vote in the last 72 hours of a legislative session.