Legislature approves bill for gun-toting lawmakers

Louisiana legislators could soon be added to a special class of officials allowed to carry concealed guns in most public buildings and other places most people can’t.

Senate Bill 651, which won final approval at the Capitol on Wednesday bars legislators and anyone else from packing heat at the state Capitol.

Coupled with legislation approved earlier this session, the state Capitol will have tighter gun control than most restaurants in Louisiana -- even those that serve alcohol.

But if approved by the governor, SB 651 would add state lawmakers to the list of “peace officers” who can tote their concealed weapons in otherwise restricted areas, including state buildings aside from the Capitol and courthouses. Others given the special privelege include judges, constables, coroners, district attorneys and other authorities.

“This just adds legislators to the group; it doesn’t broaden where people can go,” Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, explained earlier this week on the House floor.

The Capitol had become one hang-up as the legislation snaked its way through the Legislature this session. In its final form, SB 651 expressley outlaws guns in the statehouse.

Gov. Bobby Jindal already has signed several gun bills into law this session, including House Bill 72, which allows concealed carry in restaurants that serve alcohol.

The National Riffle Association lauded Jindal’s signing of the legislation, noting that 49 states now allow “some form of carry for personal protection in these establishments.”

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .