Louisiana Legislature Set For Veto Override Vote On Constitutional Carry

AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte

Intense lobbying on the part of anti-gun mayors and several law enforcement organizations have failed to derail a special session of the Louisiana legislature, which will begin next Tuesday and is expected to feature a vote to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a Constitutional Carry bill that was passed with a veto-proof majority.

As Louisiana TV station KNOE reports, veto override sessions are incredibly rare in Louisiana, so this could be one for the history books.

The constitution calls for a veto session to be scheduled automatically when a governor jettisons legislation. However, a majority vote of either the House or Senate can scrap the gathering, and lawmakers had canceled every veto session over nearly five decades.

But the Republican-led House and Senate are spurning that tradition this year. Neither chamber’s membership turned in enough ballots by the Thursday midnight deadline to stop this year’s session, according to GOP House Speaker Clay Schexnayder.

“In accordance with the Louisiana Constitution and the will of the majority of its members, the Legislature will return to Baton Rouge to consider overriding vetoes made by Gov. Edwards this session. This is democracy in action,” Schexnayder said in a statement Friday to The Associated Press.

Constitutional Carry isn’t the only piece of legislation that will come up during next week’s session, but it’s definitely a top priority for the Republican-controlled legislature, which has seen neighbors like Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas all approve similar bills in the past few years.

During the regular session, Constitutional Carry was approved by a veto-proof and bipartisan majority, but it remains to be seen whether or not the handful of Democrats who voted in favor of the pro-Second Amendment bill will stand by their vote or the Democratic governor. The math is particularly tricky in the state Senate, given that one Republican who voted in favor of Constitutional Carry during the regular session won’t be in Baton Rouge next week.

[Republican state Sen. Ronnie] Johns underwent a full knee replacement surgery July 7 and said he is under a doctor’s order to avoid travel for at least four weeks. He said he and his doctor agreed on the date for his surgery two months earlier, far ahead of any talks of a veto session.

The procedure went as expected, but complications that occurred days later, such as “excessive bleeding from the incision,” led Johns’ doctor to order no travel for several weeks, he said.

“I’m not going to jeopardize my health or the success of this surgery and go against my doctor’s orders,” the senator said Thursday.

As long as Democrat state Sen. Gary Smith, Jr. sticks with his original vote in favor of Constitutional Carry, and the rest of the Republican caucus in the Senate shows up, there should be the bare minimum of votes necessary in the Senate to override Edwards’ veto (one Republican senator voted against Constitutional Carry the first time around). If Smith defects, however, or if any other Republicans can’t attend the special session, then the bill is likely in severe trouble.

The National Rifle Association is hoping to rally members to the cause by hosting a pro-Constitutional Carry rally outside the state capitol building on Monday evening, just hours before the start of the veto override session. In an alert to members, the organization is urging a large turnout in order to keep up the momentum to make Louisiana the 22nd Constitutional Carry state in the country.

Senate Bill 118 enables our constitutional right as law-abiding individuals to carry a handgun for self-defense.  This important legislation ensures that citizens are able to exercise their right to self-defense without government red tape or delays.  This measure does not affect previously issued carry permits, and allows citizens who still wish to obtain a permit in order to carry in other states recognizing Louisiana permits, to do so.

Louisianans can already open carry without a permit.  Carrying a firearm in a purse or wearing a coat that would conceal the firearm should not, and does not, turn law-abiding citizens into criminals.  Apparently, Governor Edwards thinks it does and is using that ill-conceived logic as one of his reasons for vetoing SB 118.

As the NRA points out, permitless open carry is already legal in Louisiana, which undercuts the objections about a lack of training by some anti-gun politicians and police chiefs. The bill wouldn’t scrap the current concealed carry licensing system in the state, but it would ensure that law-abiding residents who can legally own a gun can also carry for self-defense without the government bureaucracy getting involved. Let’s hope that there’s strong turnout; not just on Monday evening, but among lawmakers themselves come next Tuesday morning when the veto override session is gaveled in and the debate begins.