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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards vetoes concealed carry gun bill

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/27/2021 Greg Hilburn, Lafayette Daily Advertiser
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Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed a bill to allow people to carry concealed handguns in Louisiana without a permit or training, which could fuel a growing movement for a veto-override session from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

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Senate Bill 118 by Monroe Republican Sen. Jay Morris would have allowed anyone 21 and older to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. Current law allows concealed carry with a permit and training.

Though the bill won overwhelming support in the Legislature, Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, has said he believes current law "strikes the right balance."

More: New handgun law in Texas: The law explained and what you need to know about the changes

States passing concealed carry: Texas and Mississippi

Neighboring Texas and Mississippi have passed expanded concealed-carry bills similar to Morris' measure, and Republican governors there have signed them into law.

“I certainly can’t say it’s a surprise; the governor has been clear all along," Morris told the USA TODAY Network on Friday. "But I’m still disappointed. This bill is for law-abiding and freedom-loving citizens.

"The people of Louisiana want it, and hopefully we will join our neighbors, like Texas and Mississippi, and pass constitutional carry with or without the governor’s signature."

Supporters call it "constitutional carry" because they believe concealed carry is protected already under the Second Amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms. They believe the current Louisiana law requiring training and permits to carry a concealed firearm infringes on their constitutional rights.

Permits would have still been available for those who seek them for advantages such as traveling to other states that recognize Louisiana's permit under Morris' bill.

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"We shouldn't need the government's permission to defend ourselves," testified Chris Patron of Firearm Professionals of Louisiana during a committee hearing on the bill.

Opponents, such as those representing the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, warned that allowing concealed carry without permits elevates the potential of illegal gun violence and accidental shootings.

"Think about Bourbon Street ... with 21-year-olds all packing underneath their clothes," said Fabian Blache, executive director of the police chiefs association, during debate on the bill. "If anybody can (conceal carry), they're going to be popping off in a heartbeat. Those kids who'll be able to put one under their clothing ... I think it's going to create more shootings."

Louisiana already allows people to carry visible firearms without a permit.

Until now, Edwards has generally been a reliable vote for most gun expansion bills both when he served in the House and during his two terms as governor.

Edwards has pointed to a poll from A Stronger Louisiana, a group that supports the governor's agenda, that shows 80% of people surveyed want to keep the permit requirement in place.

Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder said earlier this week he supports a veto override session after Edwards vetoed a bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing in girls' and women's sports.

The USA TODAY Network is seeking comment from Republican Senate President Page Cortez of Lafayette about the possibility of a veto-override session.

If lawmakers did return to the Capitol for a veto-override session, it would be the first since the new Louisiana Constitution was adopted in 1974.

The veto-override session would take place July 20-24.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards vetoes concealed carry gun bill

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