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Constitutional Carry Bill Could Cause Legal Jams

I start with this provocative image because, much like a poorly designed gun, a poorly designed piece of legislation could get you all jammed up.

Constitutional Carry is back on the docket, again, for the 2021 regular session of the Louisiana State Legislature. Again introduced by District 1 State Rep. Danny McCormick of Bossier and Caddo Parishes, this time as HB16. The bill is essentially the same as the one that has failed several times before.

First, I would of course like to commend Representative McCormick and the other sponsors of this bill for their support and enthusiasm for the lawful carrying of defensive weapons. But as I’ve seen the news of this bill pop up again this year, I’ve again seen the same confusion and misinformation flying around, not only from the news media, but in concealed carry circles as well. I hope to set straight the debate and ease the collective head-scratching before the accumulated dandruff shed from it all blinds everyone to what is actually going on.

The most important thing to know about this bill, and the same problems it has had every time before, is that it really doesn’t do much at all, at least not for anyone who is serious about concealed carry. Yes, it gets rid of the requirements for a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but that doesn’t mean you can do everything you can currently do with a permit. All it does is treat permitless carry the same as open carry is currently treated. Legal, yes, but fraught with peril for the uninitiated. As a result, anyone who is really going to carry a gun with any regularity will still need to get the permit, and the existence of permits is (fortunately), still preserved by this bill.

If this bill were to pass, permitless carry would have these same major problems that open carry currently has:

  1. You cannot carry in ANY place that sells ANY alcohol for consumption on the premises. See LA R.S. 41:95.5. In this state, that’s pretty much everywhere that serves food short of fast-food restaurants. The only exceptions in 95.5 are for concealed carry permits issued pursuant to the CHP statute (LA R.S. 40:1379.3), and nothing in the Constitutional Carry bill would change that with respect to permitless carry.
  2. You cannot carry within 1000 feet of a school, and a violation of this is a FELONY. See LA R.S. 14:95.2. Again, there is an exception to the prohibition of guns within 1000 feet of a school for permits, but there would not be one for permitless carry. As a matter of practicality, no one knows with certainty where these 1000 zones all begin and end, and I see this as a pretty dangerous trap, especially in municipalities hostile to concealed carry.
  3. You would have no concealed carry reciprocity with other states, unless of course you were in another constitutional carry state. And some other constitutional carry states don’t let non-residents carry without a permit.

I’m sure there are some more problems that I’m just not even thinking about right now, but these three should be enough to show that these perennial constitutional carry bills are more symbolic than useful. Constitutional Carry might prove useful for the casual carrier, someone who isn’t interested in carrying on a regular basis and might just want to pocket a pistol only in times of particular concern. However, anyone who is serious about carry won’t notice any difference and will still need a permit. Another major concern that I have for this hypothetical future is that the permitting scheme could be legislated away “because we don’t need it anymore,” while the above-listed problems with permitless carry still exist.

On the flip side, there really isn’t any need for alarm among the anti-gun community, either. Again, this bill doesn’t really do much. No one can carry in places they couldn’t carry before. No one can carry a gun who wasn’t allowed to carry a gun before. It just allows people who currently can (and probably already do) open carry to put their jacket on, as Representative McCormick’s video proclaimed: Constitutional Carry defends your right to wear a jacket without a permit. I would hope that even some on the left might find a silver lining on a bill like this – illegal carrying of weapons is one more crime that, by itself, is victimless and disproportionately affects minority communities, further contributing to our mass incarceration problem. If this bill were to pass, the biggest effect it would likely have is a reduction in the “crime” of “carrying while black.”

I hope this helps to frame the debate and what it is really about, and to both temper the expectations and ease the fears of the pro- and anti-carry crowds, respectively. And if nothing else, if this bill DOES pass, I hope my explanations can keep some people out of trouble they didn’t otherwise expect.

I will still support this bill, as I did last time. However, I would prefer bills to make changes to the concealed carry climate in this state that would be more helpful to those WITH permits, and I am never a huge fan of throwing the same bill before the legislature every year after repeated failures. I know this is a sentiment that is shared by other pro-gun legislators, and I agree that it would be better to devote our efforts to well-crafted bills calculated to have a chance of passing over symbolic measures that will only make our political opponents ever more numb to our pleas.

As always, piece be with you.