Senate Committee amends gun bill to allow teachers to carry concealed guns at schools

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, June 2, 2022

By Jim Beam

A state Senate committee changed a bill aimed at removing the requirement that a person possess a state permit in order to carry a concealed handgun into a measure creating school protection officers. The House had earlier approved the permit-less handgun bill 64-27.

House Bill 37 by Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City, was first heard by the Senate Judiciary C Committee that reported it favorably and it was recommitted to the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee.

McCormick, before the bill was changed, said his legislation removed government ties and red tape. He called it a constitutional carry bill. McCormick said he sponsored the bill as requested by many of his constituents.

Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, and a member of the committee, said there was nothing in the U.S. Constitution about carrying a handgun. He said the bill took away safety precautions necessary for carrying concealed weapons.

Luneau said a statewide poll showed that 80 percent of those surveyed believe permits should be required to carry a concealed weapon.

Sen. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, said his voters want weapons training before people can carry concealed weapons.

Sen. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales, sponsored the amendment that changed McCormick’s bill. He said there needed to be more people in schools who are qualified to handle guns.

McCormick said there are already sheriff’s deputies at schools. However, Lambert said criminals would take out deputies first.

The bill as amended authorizes school districts within the state to designate one or more elementary or secondary school teachers or administrators or retired school teachers or administrators as school protection officers.

The Legislature has to adjourn at 6 p.m. Monday and new bills can’t be introduced this late. Lambert said the rewritten bill could provide a means of addressing school safety in light of the shooting deaths of 19 schoolchildren and two teachers last week in Uvalde, Texas.

“The question is, do we pass something to prevent something? This is a last chance to really do something,” Lambert said. He said schools need more security than the state has in schools at the moment.

The amended bill says school protection officers would be voluntary and it would be in addition to their normal job duties. Once designated, school protection officers would be authorized to carry a concealed firearm in any school in the district.

The legislation says school protection officers must maintain personal control of the firearm while it is on school property. It also requires that school districts notify the superintendent of State Police of every school protection officer designated and State Police would maintain a list of those officers.

Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, sponsored a bill like McCormick’s original bill last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and the veto fell three votes short of being overridden. Morris wanted to keep McCormick’s goal in the amended bill, but the committee didn’t agree.

Lambert’s amendment gained 8-2 committee approval. Morris and Sen. Mike Reese, R-Leesville, were opposed. Once the amendment was added, there was no objection to sending the amended bill to the full Senate.

If approved there, the legislation would have to go back to the House to see if it agrees with the changes.