Local law enforcement officials say they stand behind state Sen. Jay Morris’ legislation clearing citizens to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, though some expressed concern that firearm safety training still take place.
Under Senate Bill 118, all persons over the age of 21 who are not convicted felons can carry a concealed weapon without obtaining a concealed carry permit. Morris, a Republican, characterized the purpose of SB 118 as simply confirming each citizen’s constitutional right to bear arms.
Last week, the Tennessee Legislature joined 18 other states that have approved permit-less carry, or constitutional carry, laws.
“It’s time Louisiana joined the other 18 states which have passed constitutional carry,” said Morris, of Monroe. “This bill really shouldn’t be necessary as our right to bear arms is already established under the Second Amendment, and any limitations on that right should be narrow.”
West Monroe Police Chief Jeff Terrell said he was personally in support of the legislation.
“Based on my reading of the Constitution, it says you can keep and bear arms,” Terrell said. “The founders made it clear. Restrictions don’t hurt anyone but law-abiding citizens. When you look at it, the people that are not going to follow the law, are criminals. They’re going to carry whether the law says they can or cannot.”
In Louisiana, constitutional carry legislation has not met any success in legislative chambers, mostly because of opposition from law enforcement.
“I’m not going to worry about that,” Morris told The Ouachita Citizen. “I know law enforcement has shown some concern about it from time to time, but I think this bill addresses the concerns of law enforcement. I filed a bill I think has a really good chance of getting to the governor’s desk.”
Morris’ legislation would allow Louisiana residents to continue obtaining permits if a resident needs reciprocity with other states that have a permit requirement. SB 118 also prohibits anyone intoxicated through alcohol or drugs from carrying a concealed gun.
“Although it allows permit-less carry for law-abiding citizens above 21, it also makes it clear they cannot carry a concealed gun while intoxicated,” Morris said. “If a police officer addresses them, they are obliged to notify the officer they’re carrying a concealed gun.”
Ouachita Parish Sheriff Jay Russell indicated his support for Morris’ legislation, though he warned handgun training remained essential.
“I support the constitutional carry legislation being introduced by Sen. Jay Morris,” Russell said. “From a safety standpoint, I do feel it is important the person carrying the weapon be familiar with it and receive training.”
Monroe Police Chief Victor “Vic” Zordan was more reserved. According to Zordan, Louisiana’s laws requiring each concealed carry permit applicant to complete a concealed handgun training course was a key method of ensuring gun-toting citizens underwent gun safety training.
“You go through a class that involves handgun safety training, and you have to fire a gun before you can complete it,” Zordan said. “I want citizens to enjoy the right to have guns and be safe, but I’d have to think about it.”
Sterlington Police Chief Barry Bonner questioned whether a constitutional carry law would embolden criminals to carry a concealed gun.
“As a law enforcement officer, we might have concerns about people feeling emboldened to carry, but the reality is laws won’t stop criminals from carrying guns,” Bonner said. “The laws in place are meant to keep honest men honest. Dishonest people break the law anyway. Our citizens should be able to protect themselves, their families and their property.”
Morris’ bill was assigned to Senate Committee Judiciary C.