Lawmakers in a key legislative committee in Louisiana have given the green light to a constitutional carry bill, voting 4-1 in favor of the legislation by state Sen. Danny McCormick, though not without making one change that some gun owners won’t be happy about.
Before sending HB 131 to the full Senate floor for consideration the Senate Judiciary Committee B panel adopted an amendment that will raise the age for constitutional carry from 18 to 21. That would bring the constitutional carry measure in line with current state law that requires concealed carry applicants to be at least 21-years-old, but could run afoul of several court decisions around the country that have found fault with any age-based restriction on adults accessing their right to keep and bear arms. Still, adults younger than 21 would still be able to carry without a license, as long as they did so with their firearm visible for all to see.
Three Republicans and Sen. Gregory W. Tarver Sr., a Democrat from Shreveport, supported the bill. Sen. Joseph Bouie Jr., D-New Orleans voted in opposition to it.
“Unfortunately, for too long, Louisiana has been infringing on that God given right, forcing law abiding citizens to pay a tax while asking for government permission,” McCormick said about current gun laws that require residents to obtain a permit to concealed carry.
McCormick said Louisiana is an open carry state and that this bill would mimic the law that allows individuals 18 and over to open carry firearms. He said the bill would simply expand the law to allow permitless concealed carry.
McCormick’s bill passed the House with a 71-29 vote May 23, 2023. Rep. Debbie Villio, R-Kenner, presented a similar age amendment in the House that was rejected, 48-52.
“You know there’s nothing in the Constitution that says you can carry a weapon concealed, right?” Sen. Gary L. Smith Jr., D-Norco and the Senate committee’s chairman, said Tuesday.
“It says you have the right to bear arms not the right to conceal arms.”
True enough, and as long as adults under-21 could still openly carry that may satisfy the constitutional requirements. But the amendment still doesn’t make much sense to me from a practical perspective. Why should a 20-year-old woman who wants to carry a pistol for self-defense have to advertise the fact that she’s armed when her 21-year-old bestie could carry concealed without obtaining a government permission slip? It doesn’t make sense, and frankly it will probably put younger gun owners at a greater risk of being targeted if they’re present when someone with criminal intent decides to act on their plans.
I’m hopeful that this amendment can be removed once debate begins on the Senate floor, but if not it shouldn’t be reason to scuttle the legislation completely. Better to get constitutional carry in place and then challenge the age-based restriction in court afterwards than to reject constitutional carry completely. Republicans only have a razor-thin veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate in Baton Rouge, and while a couple of Democrats have added their support to the measure, there’s no guarantee they’ll stand by their original vote in a veto override session. In fact, there’s no guarantee there won’t be shenanigans played on the Republican side of the aisle either, which is what led to the defeat of a similar proposal back in 2021.
There’s a good chance that Louisiana will join the ranks of the 27 other constitutional carry states in the not-too-distant future, but gun owners in the Bayou State can’t take it as a given that it’s going to happen. They need to be calling and emailing their own legislators and urging them to back HB 131, as well as encouraging them to strip the age-based restriction on younger adults from the bill and pass a clean version that will allow all legal gun owners, regardless of age, to bear arms in self-defense in the manner of their choosing without having to obtain a government permission slip beforehand.