Louisiana governor signs away his main objection to permitless carry

Louisiana governor signs away his main objection to permitless carry
Seth Perlman

In 2021 Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a Constitutional Carry bill that reached his desk, and thanks to a couple of lawmakers who switched their vote or were conveniently absent during veto override session, the bill never became law.

Earlier this year, however, Edwards quietly signed another bill that does allow hundreds of thousands of Louisianans to lawfully carry without a license, and in doing so, I think he’s lost his own argument against Constitutional Carry for all.

The bill in question permits all active duty and retired military personnel in the state of Louisiana to carry a concealed firearm without the need for a government permission slip, so long as they were honorably discharged and have no felony convictions. It doesn’t matter how long ago you served or how long you wore the uniform, or even how much firearms training you received while in the service. As long as you honorably served and haven’t been caught committing a felony since you got out you’re good to go.

It didn’t take a veto override for Rep. Danny McCormick’s bill to become law either. Edwards signed this one himself, something that McCormick says he was hoping to see.

“I believe in constitutional carry for all adults, but my bill was vetoed (in 2021), so I came up with a scaled-back version that I thought the governor might sign,” said Morris, whose 2021 bill that mirrored McCormick’s won final passage in the Legislature but was rejected by Edwards.

The “scaled-back version” nonetheless makes more adults eligible for concealed carry without a permit than the 271,369 permits issued by State Police since the current concealed carry law was enacted in 1996.

State Police issued or renewed about 40,000 concealed carry permits in 2021.

“Our veterans and active-duty military are well versed in weapons training and are among the most responsible citizens we have,” Morris said. “We recognize the brave men and women who fight for and who have fought for our state and our country and the sacrifices they have made.

“This bill is meant to protect their rights to bear arms and show support for their service.”

I’m sure that it is, but given that McCormick says he’s bringing back his full Constitutional Carry bill next year, I think the bill was also designed to help everyone else’s right to keep and bear arms as well.

If John Bel Edwards is okay with someone carrying a concealed firearm even though their only formal instruction consists of the training they received years ago on rifles while they were in basic training, why should he object to someone carrying a concealed firearm who might have received a weekend’s worth of instruction from her father or grandfather at their backyard range? Here’s what Edwards said in his veto message last June.

“I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and an enthusiastic outdoorsman and hunter. But I simply cannot support carrying a concealed carry firearm without proper education and safety training – and I believe the majority of Louisianans agree with me. Our current system strikes the right balance of ensuring that people can bear arms while also keeping reasonable permitting and training processes in place. It is a matter of basic public safety and numerous law enforcement leaders across the state opposed the bill for this reason, especially as it relates to the enhanced risk posed to their officers. Simply put, it is not too much to ask that a person who wishes to carry a concealed weapon in public be required to attend basic marksmanship and safety training so they understand the regulations associated with such an action. That’s reasonable and responsible, and for these reasons, I have vetoed the permitless carry bill.”

Does the military’s basic marksmanship course help anyone understand the regulations associated with lawfully carrying a concealed firearm in public? Of course not, any more than my daughter’s recent driver’s ed course taught her how to race quarter midgets on a dirt track.

Edwards’ stated objection to permitless carry wasn’t that people would be carrying without any training whatsoever, it was that they would be carrying without a good idea of how to do so safely, responsibly, and legally under Louisiana law. Now he’s given his approval for about 300,000 Louisianans to do just that, so why shouldn’t every other legal gun owner in the state be able to exercise their right to bear arms in the same way?

I’m sure that when McCormick’s Constitutional Carry bill drops next session Edwards will have an argument about why he’s still opposed. I just don’t think it’s gonna be coherent given his stance on permitless carry for those with military service. The reason for the governor’s training mandate has now been tossed out the window thanks to his own actions, and he’s lost his fundamental argument against permitless carry for all law-abiding citizens.