People would be able to carry concealed weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol under legislation approved by the Louisiana House on Thursday.
The House voted 62-24 for the measure, sponsored by state Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, amid protests that gun rights proponents are going too far.
State Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, a former State Police commander, said legislators should stop allowing outside forces from “using Louisiana as a testing ground,” an apparent reference to the National Rifle Association. He said the state is becoming “a laughingstock.”
Landry said the state has a high national rating when it comes to gun deaths.
“This is not about politics for me. It’s about what kind of community we are going to live in,” Landry said.
Burns’ House Bill 48 started out allowing law enforcement officers to carry weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol. The House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee amended the measure to allow those with concealed weapons permits to have the same right.
It would still be a crime subject to criminal prosecution to carry a concealed weapon into the restaurants if an individual does not have a permit. Offenders are subject to a maximum fine of $500, a jail term of not more than six months, or both.
Burns said he considered it a Second Amendment issue dealing with the right to keep and bear arms. “A gun owner should be able to bring a gun into the restaurant,” if the restaurant owner does not object, he said.
Burns said restaurant owners could post “gun free” zone signs if they object.
Landry and state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, who sit on the Administration of Criminal Justice Committee, complained that the amendment allowing the concealed weapons permit holders the same status as police officers was not explained in committee.
“I think this is not fair for the citizens. There’s already enough gun laws here,” Norton said.
The House also endorsed Burns’ House Bill 717 which would require reporting to a federal database the names of offenders in court cases who plead based on an insanity defense or lack of mental capacity and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
The national database is used to gather information on those people who are ineligible to purchase a firearm because they are either felons or because of mental illness.
Burns said there is a provision in the legislation that would allow for restoration of firearm rights if an individual’s mental issues are behind them
Burns said the legislation addresses “a loophole” and “breakdown” in current law involving those with court-certified mental illness. Under the bill, clerks of court would report cases to the Louisiana Supreme Court which in turn would forward the information to the national database.
The House approved the bill on a 74-8 vote.
Both measures move to the Louisiana Senate for debate.