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State Sen. Jay Morris’ legislation freeing people to carry a concealed gun in Louisiana without a permit passed the state Senate Tuesday despite aversion to the bill, including one senator’s brush-off of the legislation as the “Thoughts and Prayers Act.”

Morris’ Senate Bill 118 proposes the constitutional carry or permit-less carry, mirroring similar laws in at least 19 other states. Under SB 118, all persons over the age of 21 who are not convicted felons can carry a concealed weapon without obtaining a concealed carry permit, though they cannot do so while impaired and must notify law enforcement when approached by officers.

“This is not a big step for Louisiana, as some would have you believe,” said Morris, R-West Monroe.

On the Senate floor, Morris offered an amendment to SB 118 that would make “constitutional carry” available to any individual in Louisiana, not simply residents. The Senate approved his amendment, and SB 118 was sent to the House on a 27-11 vote.

After Morris’ opening remarks, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, questioned the effect on public safety if lawmakers allowed people from outside the state to enter Louisiana with a concealed firearm and without a permit. Some of the individuals entering the state with a concealed firearm might be mentally ill or be a convicted felon and nobody would know, Peterson argued.

“We don’t know that now,” Morris said. “If they’re a criminal or a felon, they’re not going to worry about whether they have a permit—if they’re going to do bad things. They’re not going to think, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to Louisiana to rob a bank. I ought to get a permit just in case I get stopped.’ I don’t think that scenario is even applicable to this.”

Peterson offered an amendment renaming Morris’ legislation the “Thoughts and Prayers Act,” a tongue-in-cheek dismissal of Morris’ bill, referring to the so-called empty pledge that “You’re in our thoughts and prayers.”

In apparent response to someone laughing at her amendment, Peterson said, “It’s not really that funny.”

Morris said he appreciated Peterson’s concerns.

“I’m sure her intent is well-meant, but I don’t want to, in any way, belittle what we’re trying to do here,” Morris said. “It’s not a bill to increase lawlessness, it’s a bill to offer protection from lawlessness.”

Second District Congressman-elect Troy Carter, who currently serves as a state senator, also opposed Morris’ legislation.

Carter defeated Peterson Saturday in a special election to fill a void in the Second District of Louisiana in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“When a person has an open carry, the individual has the option to stay away from that person because they see the gun,” said Carter, D-New Orleans.

Louisiana is an open carry state, meaning individuals can openly carry firearms without a permit or training.

According to Carter, allowing someone to carry a concealed firearm without a permit meant that person was “potentially dangerous” to the public.

“That’s not correct,” Morris said. “People are currently carrying weapons without a permit and without any training. Those people are often referred to as criminals. They are the ones we’re concerned about. This bill is for law-abiding citizens who want to enjoy the right guaranteed them by the Second Amendment.”

Carter argued that Morris’ legislation memorialized illegal activity, such as carrying a concealed firearm without a permit.

Under state law, such an action could now be prosecuted as illegal carrying of a weapon.

State Sen. Gerald Boudreaux characterized Morris’ legislation as contributing to the “gun problem” in the country.

“Where and when we have an opportunity to tighten up some things, I think we ought to take it,” said Boudreaux, D-Lafayette. “It’s not about taking away anybody’s liberties.”

State Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, argued that Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Public Defender Board depended on revenues from fees charged to residents applying for a concealed carry permit. Louisiana residents paid some $5 million in 2020 to Louisiana State Police to obtain a concealed carry permit, state officials have said.

In light of the Senate’s approval of the legislation, Morris’ bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

State Sens. Stewart Cathey, R-Sterlington, and Glen Womack, R-Harrisonburg, enrolled as co-sponsors of Morris’ legislation after senators approved it.

State Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, voted against the bill.

Earlier during consideration of SB 118, Jackson offered an amendment that added criteria to the bill, specifically that people carrying a concealed firearm could not do so without completing a firearms safety training course.

Jackson’s amendment failed to garner support.

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