Louisiana House votes to allow more guns at schools, universities
If you or a family member are facing legal difficulties, please call us at 504-522-7260. We offer free initial consultations with our clients in mind.
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
The Louisiana House voted 59-36 Wednesday (May 2) to allow visitors to carry guns at K-12 schools and on university campuses if they have concealed weapons permits.
The legislation would allow people to have guns at schools and universities, regardless of whether the institutions are public or private. House Bill 602, sponsored by state Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Under current law, most people are not allowed to carry a gun into a school or university building unless they are in law enforcement or use a weapon for class.
This proposal would allow visitors to educational institutions — but not students or employees who work on campus — to carry a weapon as long as they had a conceal carry permit. Miguez said about 125,000 people in Louisiana are conceal carry permit holders.
Similar efforts to allow teachers and university students to have guns on campus failed earlier in the legislative session. Miguez sought to distance his bill from other “school safety” proposals that have been defeated.
“It is about self-defense. It is not about school safety,” he said last week.
Under current law, people other than law enforcement officers have to leave their weapons locked in their cars when they go into a school building. At universities, students are allowed to keep weapons in a dormitory or locked in their cars, under state law, but they cannot carry them around campus.
The proposed legislation would allow school and university authorities to prohibit visitors from bringing guns into certain buildings or venues. Parish school boards would be able to put certain limitations on where someone could bring a gun for all the schools under their authority. For example, people could be prohibited from bringing guns into the principal’s office or a sports venue.
But no public or private school — or school district — would be able to issue a blanket ban on guns on its campuses.
The legislation would also let people who are visiting schools and universities for several hours to keep their guns on them. Miguez confirmed that parents who are chaperones for a field trip, for example, would be able to keep their weapons on them if they have a conceal carry permit.
Under the bill, schools would not be legally responsible for any shooting that took place on their campuses by a visitor with a weapon. They could not be sued if there is shooting by a visitor that goes wrong at their facilities.
Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, brought up concerns about parents being allowed to keep their guns on them when coming to the school to see administrators and teachers about a disciplinary matter regarding their children. He also said Miguez’s bill would mean that state lawmakers would have more protections than children at schools.
“Can conceal carry permit holders carry a gun into this chamber?” asked Landry, the former head of the Louisiana State Police, while standing on the House floor.
“No,” responded Miguez.
“But we are going to allow them to carry them into schools?” Landry said.
Miguez said legislators are fortunate to have more security in the Capitol than schools do. Legislators can rely on state police officers, who are in the Capitol, to defend them. Students don’t always have an armed security guard nearby as lawmakers do when they are in the Capitol.
The National Rifle Association supports the bill, but Louisiana’s two largest teachers unions — the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators — oppose the proposal. The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, which oversees many Catholic schools in the state, was also against the bill.
Landry said he felt that many of his fellow House members voted for the legislation under pressure from the NRA and because they expected the Senate to vote down the bill. The NRA would give House members a poor rating if they didn’t vote for the legislation, so House members were reluctantly supporting it, he said.
“I understand the die has already been cast and it’s about a score,” said Landry, who opposed the legislation. “I don’t stand for the NRA. I continue to stand for our children.”
The legislation worries university officials. Southern University and LSU in Baton Rouge are both opposed to the legislation, according to Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge. The University of New Orleans is also worried about the legislation.
“We have significant concerns about any bill that would allow people to bring firearms onto our campus. The safety of our students and employees remains our top priority,” wrote Adam Norris, a spokesman for the University of New Orleans, last week.
Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, said she doesn’t believe most conceal carry permit holders are trained to handle an active shooter situation at a school — and doesn’t think people will act appropriately if they find themselves in the middle of a school shooting. White, who is a gun owner and typically in favor of gun rights, said she was disappointed in the NRA pushing for the legislation.
There was an effort to make Miguez’s proposal contingent on a parish-by-parish popular vote. In other words, visitors to schools would have only been able to carry weapons into schools and onto university grounds if the parish approved the measure. But the amendment to require ballot approval failed on a 54-39 vote.