Louisiana bills seeking to place restrictions on where people can carry guns receive pushback

Gun Rights

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As Louisiana prepares for a new law to go into effect that allows those 18 and older to carry a concealed handgun without a permit, a Republican-controlled committee pushed back Wednesday against bills seeking to restrict where people can carry guns.

Among the Democratic-authored legislation was a measure rejected along party lines that would have added child day care centers, early learning centers, developmental centers and nursing homes to the list of firearm-free zone. Places currently on the list include schools, churches, courthouses, police stations and the State Capitol.

Opponents of the bill argue that the measure threatens their Second Amendment right and that gun-free zones don’t stop criminals from committing violence.

“This is going to do nothing but restrict law-abiding citizens’ ability to defend themselves,” said Kelby Seanor, director of the National Rifle Association’s Louisiana chapter.

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Supporters of the measure say it is a logical extension of other zones, such as schools, and would help police get illegal guns off the street.

“What I’m hearing today is this hysteria of, ‘Oh, they are coming for our guns.’ Nothing in this legislation implies or suggests that,” Democratic Rep. Alonzo Knox said during the House committee hearing.

Knox proposed a bill that still may have a chance. It seeks to limit people who can carry guns in “major entertainment districts” to only those who choose to obtain a concealed carry permit, a process that includes paying the government a fee, having their fingerprints taken and completing a firearm training course.

Entertainment districts are defined as high traffic public spaces that host more than 15 million people annually and have a sports or entertainment venue with a capacity for more than 75,000 people. Among such districts is New Orleans’ French Quarter, home to the famous and raucous Bourbon Street.

Members of the city police department, parish sheriff’s office and city council testified in support of the bill, saying it would help law enforcement to control the areas, seize illegal guns and hopefully prevent shootings.

After some GOP lawmakers expressed their opposition, Knox deferred the measure in the hopes of making changes in the language or amendments to satisfy the committee and advance the bill at a later date.

The committee did approve of a bill that would allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol. Bill author Republican Sen. Blake Miguez reiterated that bars would still be off-limits and that anyone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05% or higher would not be allowed to carry a concealed weapon. The bill now heads to the House for final passage.

Gov. Jeff Landry signed legislation six weeks ago that will allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns without a permit or training. The law goes into effect July 4.

Proponents of the law, which they describe as a “constitutional carry bill,” say it will help protect themselves against criminals who ignore laws. Opponents, including multiple police organizations, fear that by removing the permitting process, more guns will be on the street with untrained owners — placing more people in dangerous situations.

In addition, officers say the regulation of concealed carry permits is a tool they use to crack down on illegal weapons. Last Carnival season, New Orleans police seized 111 guns, a number that New Orleans Police Department Deputy Chief Nicholas Gernon said would not be possible under the new permit-less concealed carry law because “no reasonable suspicion for the stops would have existed.”

“This is the kind of tool that we’ve lost within the city of New Orleans and our fight against violent crime,” Gernon said.

Louisiana had the country’s second-highest number of gun-related deaths in 2021 with 1,314, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figure includes suicides and homicides. Recently, a shooting that occurred Sunday outside a New Orleans nightclub killed one woman and injured 11 other people.

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