Louisiana concealed carry gun bill wins final passage; governor promises veto

Greg Hilburn
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
Photo illustration by Getty Images

A bill to allow people to carry a concealed handgun in Louisiana without a permit or training secured final legislative passage Tuesday, though Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has promised to veto the bill.

Senate Bill 118 by Republican Sen. Jay Morris of Monroe is part of a trend of "concealed carry" gun bills being debated in many state Legislatures this spring.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last week he will sign a similar bill that passed the Texas Legislature.

Supporters believe the current Louisiana law requiring training and permits to carry a concealed firearm are infringements on their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Morris' bill would allow anyone 21 and older to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. Current law allows concealed carry with a permit that requires training.

Permits would still be available for those who seek them for advantages such as traveling to other states that recognize Louisiana's permit.

"We shouldn't need the government's permission to defend ourselves," said Chris Patron with Firearm Professionals of Louisiana testified during a committee hearing.

A similar bill from Thibodaux Republican Rep. Bryan Fontenot's — House Bill 596 — is also moving swiftly through the Legislature.

Opponents, like those representing the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, warned allowing concealed carry without permits elevates the potential of illegal gun violence or accidental shootings.

Louisiana already allow people to carry visible firearms without a permit.

Until now Edwards has generally been a reliable vote for most gun expansion bills both when he served in the House and during his two terms as governor.

But Edwards has said he'll break ranks with the National Rifle Association on the concealed carry expansion bills with vetoes.

"That’s the right balance to strike, and I feel very strongly about that," Edwards said of the current concealed carry law. "I also feel very strongly that a considerable majority of the people in Louisiana support the system we currently have."

Edwards' staff points to a poll from A Stronger Louisiana, a group that supports the governor's agenda, that shows 80% of people surveyed want to keep the current permit requirement in place.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.