Louisiana’s crime-focused special legislative session begins

Published 6:55 am Wednesday, February 21, 2024

By Elizabeth White | LSU Manship School News Service

Louisiana lawmakers voted to join 27 other states that allow residents to carry a concealed handgun without permits or training as a deterrent to rising crime.

The vote came in committee on a hectic day of legislative action that passed a flurry of anti-crime bills urged by the newly-elected Republican Gov. Jeff Landry who has vowed to take a tough anti-crime stance.

Landry has said he will sign into law everything that has moved so far to his desk.

“Crime is rampant,” said Sen. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, who authored the gun bill. “We are offering law-abiding citizens limited options to defend themselves and their property,” he said.

Senate bill No. 1 which was approved 6-1 on Tuesday would allow anyone in Louisiana over the age of 18 to carry a concealed handgun without a permit as long as they are not prohibited by law from owning a firearm. Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, voted no.

“This bill is about making Louisiana a safer place since criminals already carry concealed firearms without regard for the law,” Miguez said. “Constitutional carry,” using a term employed by gun rights advocates, “simply puts law-abiding citizens on equal footing,” he said.

This is not the first time carrying permitless, concealed guns, or “constitutional carry,” has been considered in Louisiana. In 2021, a similar bill was passed by the Legislature, but vetoed by former Gov. John Bel Edwards.

In Landry’s opening speech to a joint session of the Legislature on Monday he made it apparent that if the bill again passed he would sign it into law.

“This body has repeatedly passed it. Now you have a governor who will sign it,” Landry said on Monday.

While the bill advanced on Tuesday it met with opposition from the New Orleans Police Department, the state’s largest city police force.

New Orleans Police Deputy Superintendent Lawrence Dupree spoke in opposition to the bill on behalf of Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick and the NOPD.

“NOPD supports a licensing system for the carry of concealed weapons,” Dupree said, adding, “Permits ensure that certain core public safety standards are maintained such as requiring that a person has passed a background check and completed firearm safety training.”

Dupree said the NOPD removed over 22,000 concealed handguns off the streets in 2023, and over 140 concealed handguns were removed off the Mardi Gras parade route this year.

Sen. John “Jay” Morris, R-West Monroe, who has previously authored a bill that allowed permitless concealed carry for honorably-discharged veterans, rebutted Dupree’s opposition by asking about New Orleans issues with gun violence.

“There are people all over the city of New Orleans illegally carrying weapons. Are there not?” asked Morris, adding, “The people who are carrying those weapons don’t care about the law.”

The committee also passed Senate bill No. 3 authored by Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, which would reverse a law passed a few years ago known as the “Raise the Age Law.” That law raised the age in which a juvenile could be tried as an adult to 18 years of age from 17.

“Although this legislation may have had good intentions,” said Cloud “we moms and dads, schools communities, neighborhoods large and small across Louisiana, sheriffs and mayors, district attorneys and judges have seen quite the opposite.”

On Monday, Landry said, “by lowering the age, it has resulted in actual incidents of older criminals recruiting 17-year-olds for criminal activity, knowing the consequences would be minimal. It has fast-tracked too many of our teenagers into a life of crime. The effect has been catastrophic.”

The latest bill lowers the age in which a juvenile can be tried as an adult to 17 from 18.