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Permitless concealed carry bill headed to Gov. Landry's desk

Gov. Jeff Landry shakes hands with representatives while entering the House chamber during the first day of a special session on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Baton Rouge, La. (Michael Johnson/The Advocate via AP, Pool)
Michael Johnson
Pool The Advocate
Gov. Jeff Landry shakes hands with representatives while entering the House chamber during the first day of a special session on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Baton Rouge, La.

Lawmakers in the Louisiana House gave final approval to multiple controversial proposals Wednesday, including a measure that would treat 17-year-olds as adults in the state’s criminal justice system.

Another would allow anyone 18 years or older to conceal carry a gun without a permit or training. The proposals head next to Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk where he is expected to sign them.

The two bills, and more, have moved through the legislature quickly, putting lawmakers on track to wrap up Landry’s special session on crime before the March 6 deadline.

In the Senate, lawmakers passed a bill that would make juvenile court records available to the public in cases where they are accused of a violent crime. That bill, however, was amended and must return to the House for approval before it heads to Landry.

Lawmakers in the Senate did not consider a proposal that would expand execution methods on Wednesday. They also pushed back debate on a bill that seeks to limit post-conviction plea deals. Both of those will likely be heard on the Senate floor later this week.

Permitless concealed carry gets final approval

The bill that would allow for permitless concealed carry in Louisiana passed out of the House with a 75 to 28 vote after hours of debate Wednesday morning.

Sen. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, filed the legislation. He says the bill is a practical solution to crime because it will put “law-abiding citizens on an equal footing with violent criminals.”

Miguez has repeatedly noted that all of Louisiana’s neighbors already have similar laws in place.

“It's just natural that [Louisianans] should have the same rights as the neighboring states,” he said. “And we're proud to give them back those rights that are God-given rights and a natural right of self defense.”

He also argues that the bill is not a big change for Louisiana where it is already legal to carry a firearm openly, except in certain areas, like school zones. A recent study of 11 states that removed concealed carry licensing found rates of violent gun assaults increased by 32%.

Opponents of the bill, however, argue that it will make guns more easily accessible and increase gun violence. The New Orleans Police Department opposes the measure. NOPD Deputy Chief Lawrence Dupree said at a committee hearing that permits ensure public safety standards are upheld.

Former Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed a similar bill in 2021. Concealed carry bills have continued to pop up since, including one that was considered during the regular legislative session in spring 2023.

Last week, Landry endorsed the bill at the start of the special session and told lawmakers that he would sign the bill into law. His expected approval, in combination with the legislature’s approval, has been met with excitement from gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association.

With Landry’s signature, the bill goes into effect on July 4.

Tough-on-crime policies target teens

Another bill headed to Landry’s desk will allow 17-year-olds to be tried as adults, reversing the state’s “Raise the Age” act signed into law under Edwards.

Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, brought the proposal, which was endorsed by Landry. Cloud bashed the 2017 reform, claiming it led to an increase in juvenile criminal cases.

“Every city, town and village across the state has suffered immensely from the consequences of ‘Raise the Age’ legislation,” she said in a Senate committee last week.

Opponents of the bill say it’s too harsh on young offenders, and argue it will increase recidivism among children and teens.

In the Senate, lawmakers also passed a bill that would make public juvenile court records public in cases of violent crime. The bill was amended in the Senate and must go back to the House before going to Landry’s desk.

Molly Ryan is a political reporter and covers state politics from the Louisiana Capitol.