New Louisiana law allows 300,000 military vets to carry concealed guns without permit
The new concealed carry exception was largely overlooked during the Louisiana Legislature's Regular Session with the focus on a bill by Oil City Republican Danny McCormick that would have removed permitting requirements for all adults 21 and older.
McCormick's comprehensive bill failed in the Senate without a final hearing because of a heightened sensitivity to gun rights expansions immediately after the Uvalde, Texas school massacre and a veto threat from Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
But Senate Bill 143 (Act 680) with the concealed carry military exception by Republican Monroe Sen. Jay Morris sailed through both the House and Senate and secured Edwards' signature.
"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.”
Morris' bill requires veterans and active duty military to be honorably discharged and be without felony convictions, but it doesn't require them to present qualifications to authorities before they can begin carrying concealed handguns.
Louisiana is home to more than 283,000 veterans and 15,000-20,000 active-duty troops, according to the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
McCormick said he will bring his concealed carry bill back next year to open the option for all adults.
Louisiana is already what's known as an "open carry" state, which means people can carry visible firearms without a permit or training.
Twenty-five states have already enacted concealed carry expansion laws.
"I'm going to bring the bill back every year until it passes," McCormick said. "My bill sends a clear message to people that we aren't willing to compromise when it comes to their Second Amendment rights."
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1