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'Constitutional carry' is back on the table as Louisiana lawmakers discuss slew of gun bills

Paul Braun
Rep. Danny McCormick (R-Oil) city speaks at a rally of Louisiana Republicans at the state capitol. July 19, 2021.

At the state capitol, lawmakers considered a wide range of gun legislation today, including some that have passed in other states and others that are sure to be controversial as they move through the legislature.

But not all of the 11 bills made it past committee meetings, and some may face long-shot odds of passing this session.

Capitol Access Reporter Paul Braun covered the debate over those bills. Below, he joined WWNO host Karl Lengel to discuss three already contentious bills that advanced Tuesday.

Karl Lengel: Paul, what were some of the gun rights bills that advanced today?

Paul Braun: Yeah, well lawmakers considered no fewer than ten pieces of firearm legislation today. We’ll just focus on a few of the more controversial measures.

First among those is HB37 by Rep. Danny McCormick (R-Oil City). He calls his legislation a “constitutional carry” bill. Opponents are more likely to call it “permitless carry,” because it would allow anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm without going through the training and registration process the state currently requires.

Twenty-five other states have passed permitless carry laws, and in recent years bills like it have been on the top of the to-do lists of many no compromise gun-rights groups. McCormick’s bill is also nearly identical to legislation passed by Louisiana lawmakers last year and vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

That one cleared the House Criminal Justice Committee despite concerns raised by some law enforcement agencies.

The same committee advanced HB43 by Rep. Larry Frieman (R-Abita Springs), which would prevent the state from enforcing any federal firearms regulations. We saw a similar bill last year that never made it across the finish line.

KL: What about legislation that would keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers 

PB: That was kind of a mixed bag.

Lawmakers on the House Criminal Justice Committee rejected HB464, a bill from Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) that would have made it more difficult to seize the guns of domestic abusers and individuals who had protective orders filed against them for domestic violence.

Seabaugh said the effort was about ensuring due process of people facing those allegations. Opponents said the changes would make the existing temporary firearm transfer process more cumbersome, and in volatile domestic violence situations that could put lives at stake.

And they advanced HB585 by Rep. Amie Freeman (D-New Orleans), a bill that would standardize data collection from the local law enforcement on how often the program keeps guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

Over in the Senate, one of the judiciary committees shot down SB327, a proposed Red Flag law from Rep. Gary Carter (D-New Orleans). It would have created a framework for people who see someone in their life exhibiting concerning or downright threatening behavior to report those individuals to local law enforcement and have their guns temporarily taken away while an investigation is conducted. We’ve seen similar legislation filed in other states in the aftermath of mass shooting events. In many cases people who knew the shooter said they saw the warning signs but there wasn’t anything they could do.

That one always seemed like a long shot. Only a few states like New York, Colorado, Hawaii and New Mexico have passed red flag laws — states with Democrats in control of the legislature. That is not the case here.

KL: Is there anything new about these efforts or is it just more of the same? 

PB: Well, many of these bills are copy/paste versions of legislation we have seen in previous years. But the folks pushing them are leveraging concerns over rising violent crime to help their arguments.

The most extreme measure we saw today was another bill from Danny McCormick that would revise the state’s definition of justifiable homicide to allow people to “shoot first” when their property is at risk during times of civil unrest. Instead of making an opening statement about his bill McCormick played a narrated video with dramatic black and white images of burning cars, masked rioters and even one slide with just the word “ANTIFA” with a big red line through it.

McCormick shelved his bill citing concerns raised by opponents. But that rhetoric crept into the debate over his permitless carry bill and most of the other discussions of pro-gun legislation.

These concerns over rising crime have influenced other policy pushes across the capitol — not just gun legislation. A Senate committee advanced legislation that would roll back the landmark criminal justice reform package passed in 2017 aimed at reducing incarceration rates in the state. Louisiana has the highest per-capita incarceration rate of any state and would have the highest rate in the world if it were a country.

In advocating for his bill, Sen. Jay Morris stoked fears that people convicted of violent crimes who were released early through the program are driving the uptick in crime, even though the Department of Corrections’ data on recidivism rates doesn’t show that to be the case.

That bill is on its way to the full Senate and I’m sure we’ll talk about it more in the weeks to come.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.

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