Thanks to a couple of Democrat defectors and three Republican flip-floppers, the Louisiana legislature’s attempt to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of Constitutional Carry went down to defeat on Monday afternoon. The 23-15 vote wasn’t enough to meet the two-thirds majority necessary to send the bill to House, where Republicans had larger numbers and a better chance of success.
Republicans were hindered by the absence of GOP Senator Ronnie Johns, who announced last week that he wouldn’t be attending the special session because of a previously scheduled knee replacement surgery. As we mentioned on Monday, however, both Johns and GOP Sen. Patrick Connick (another “nay” vote today) have been the subject of rumors around the statehouse; Johns is allegedly up for the position of Gaming Commissioner, with Connick allegedly “trading his vote to override for infrastructure funding in his district,” according to the website The Hayride.
As it turns out, Connick wasn’t the only Republican to flip-flop on Constitutional Carry. According to the official vote count, the GOP’s Louie Bernard and Franklin Foil also switched from supporting the legislation during the regular session to voting against it in the veto override attempt. Additionally, Democrats Gary Carter, Jr. and Gary Smith, Jr. decided to toe the party line and back Edwards’ veto despite voting in favor of Constitutional carry just a few weeks ago.
The excuse for the flip-flopping will be that law enforcement objections to the bill caused these senators to change their mind. But frankly, those objections don’t make much sense, and still don’t stand up under scrutiny.
“We’re not opposed to concealed carry. We’re opposed to concealed carry without education and without training,” said Fabian Blache Jr., executive director of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police.
Louisiana’s gunowners are allowed, under current law, to carry a firearm in public without a permit if the weapon is visible. To conceal it, a permit is needed. That requires undergoing a background check and a 9-hour training course.
Col. Lamar Davis, the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, said that when he taught concealed carry training courses, he was concerned by the lack of knowledge, concern and capability among those who entered his class.
Davis added that if his students hadn’t received training, “many of them could have shot themselves right there on the range.”
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said permitless carry is an issue of “officer safety,” and said that without training, he worried those carrying won’t know of their legal obligation to notify law enforcement that they’re packing a firearm when approached.
As noted above, open carry without a license is already legal in Louisiana. Honestly, why should it be a criminal offense to put on a jacket or keep your shirt untucked? If the issue is training, then why can you openly carry without attending a 9-hour course?
I’m all in favor of training, and in fact I’d encourage gun owners to regularly take training courses and to practice on their own as well. Heck, I think that the Louisiana State Police should host their own firearms training courses and open them to the public. A training mandate and a licensing requirement, on the other hand, can serve as a genuine roadblock for individuals who may suddenly find themselves in a situation where they feel the need to carry a firearm in self-defense.
Let’s also not pretend that the current law is preventing criminals from illegally carrying a gun. Punishment (at least for a first offense) is at most a six-month jail sentence and/or a $500 fine, but the vast majority of defendants are going to get offered a plea bargain and end up on probation. The current law doesn’t offer enough consequences to dissuade many criminals from illegally carrying, but it does prevent most law-abiding Louisianans from running the risk of a misdemeanor criminal record.
Besides, it’s not like Louisiana would be the first state in the Union to take this step. If the veto override had been successful, Louisiana would have become the 22nd Constitutional Carry state, and not a single state has voted to repeal the law because of unforeseen problems. You can still find plenty of firearms instructors, gun ranges, and training classes in states that adopted Constitutional Carry years ago. You’ll even find plenty of concealed carry licensees, since many gun owners choose to retain their license so they can carry in states that recognize it.
Consider me skeptical about the reasons why Constitutional Carry died in Louisiana this session, and if I hear about a shiny new infrastructure project in Patrick Connick’s district or Ronnie Johns being appointed Gaming Commissioner you’ll never convince me that objections from police were what really derailed the veto override attempt. Instead, that will be confirmation that the worst kind of politics killed the bill: a governor’s back-scratching and arm-twisting and the willingness (perhaps even the eagerness) by some lawmakers to play along.