The most incredible part of this story, to me anyway, is the fact that Louisiana legislators are meeting at all at the moment. Many state capitols remain close with legislative sessions suspended due to the coronavirus, but in Baton Rouge on Wednesday lawmakers on a key House committee approved three pro-Second Amendment measures by wide margins.

HB 334 would remove the requirement that congregants approve the lawful carrying of firearms inside houses of worship.

“Common sense should tell us that we shouldn’t have to protect ourselves in church,” said state Rep. Bryan Fontenot, the Thibodaux Republican who sponsored House Bill 334. “Criminals have certainly defined another narrative for us.”

Will Hall of the Louisiana Baptist Convention helped create the existing law that allows congregations to decide if concealed guns are allowed in a church. He said HB334 would remove the ability of congregations to decide what they want for their own churches and probably force them to hire security since they won’t know who is carrying firearms into the sanctuary.

HB 140 is a measure that would limit the abilities of local towns and parishes in Louisiana to determine where firearms can be lawfully carried in their jurisdictions. Tom Gresham, longtime Second Amendment advocate and host of Gun Talk, was among those testifying in favor of the change, but there were critics of the bill on hand as well.

Karen White, of the Louisiana Municipal Association, said no evidence has been shown that local ordinances have caused any problems, except for a few anecdotes about incidents in other states. But what House Bill 140 would do is “obliterate” ordinances in communities – like Baton Rouge, Mandeville, Hammond, Kenner, and Thibodaux – that limit carrying firearms into playgrounds, water parks, public parks, public buildings and commercial establishments where families and children visit.

Despite White’s objections, the committee approved the preemption bill on a 7-3 vote. The committee also unanimously approved HB 781, sponsored by Rep. Blake Miguez, which would prohibit the ability of elected officials to interfere with the transfer of firearms and ammunition during a state of emergency. During debate on the bill, Miguez said that the state needs to “send a message” to local officials to keep their hands off the Second Amendment during an emergency.

He was alluding to the City of New Orleans, which after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 banned guns. State law has since been changed to forbid confiscation but to allow local governments to suspend the local sale of firearms during a declared emergency.

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell correctly cited her authority to issue an emergency order in March as being lodged in the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act. Section 727 of the disaster act includes wording that would allow a local governmental executive to suspend the sale of firearms during the emergency.

All three of the bills will now head to the House floor, and I expect that they’ll be received positively. Louisiana gun owners shouldn’t take their success for granted, however, and they should be contacting their state representatives now to encourage them to support HB 781, HB 334, and HB 140.