BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD)- A bill that would allow people to conceal carry firearms without a permit has advanced in the legislature Wednesday. Advocates for and against the bill came to the capitol to share their opinions on the topic.
Under the current law someone has to complete a 9-hour training and pay multiple fees to get a conceal carry permit. Louisiana is an open carry state which allows people, who are not disqualified by law, to openly carry a firearm starting at age 18. The bill would make it consistent with the open carry law, except people can only conceal carry if they are over the age of 21.
Representatives debated about if it would make it too easy for people to have firearms without knowing how to safely use them.
“It’s a real difference between carrying in the state of Louisiana, open carry when someone carries a firearm that is visible and it’s legal and you put on a coat and subsequently it becomes illegal,” said Representative Bryan Fontenot, a Republican from Thibodaux.
Rep. Fontenot presented the bill to eliminate the training and fees that some of his constituents believe hinders them from getting a firearm. He did not want to completely do away with training so his bill creates a free video by the state police and concealed carry courses will be optional.
“I would tell you that my personal experience is that you should have mandatory training,” Rep. Fontenot said. “But I was elected by a swath of individuals who disagree. I represent the people and the people’s voice has been heard in my ear that training should not be mandatory, it should not stand in the way of your constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
He received support from many pro-gun groups, but some law enforcement angencies see it as a risk for officers out in the field dealing with people who have a concealed weapon but no permit.
“It is my belief that this legislation is a public safety issue and specifically it is an officer safety issue,” Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul Jr. said.
Those opposing the bill said the training is crucial to knowing people are educated on how to interact with law enforcement with a firearm and how to properly use it.
“Your bill goes against the constitution, and you keep throwing the constitution up and what the founding fathers say. but the founding fathers say a well-regulated militia.,” said Representative Marcus Anthony Bryant, a Democrat of New Iberia.
Rep. Fontenot said it is hard for him to have a bill that law enforcement are against, which is why he put in the free training aspect. He emphasizes its importance while staying firm should not be mandatory.
A second conceal carry bill was presented that would do away with the training and permit as well as lower the age to 18. It did not pass the committee. Rep. Fontenot’s bill heads to the house floor for debate.