BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The head of the Louisiana State Police said the state budget crisis is to blame for a backlog on processing applications for concealed handgun permits that dates back to January.
Col. Mike Edmonson said the problem stems from a $5 million cut his agency took in early 2016 as part of an effort to help balance the state budget. To compensate for that cut, Edmonson chose to put a stop on overtime within the State Police, thereby reducing his team's ability to process the permit applications.
Edmonson said overtime was the only option he had, because he had to protect the budgets for the State Crime Lab and other crime-fighting
"When you're actually trying to solve a homicide, you just don't stop those services. You don't say 'Okay I can only send you one person instead of two, maybe I can only do half of the fingerprints,'" Edmonson said.
As it stands, the State Police are in the process of going through roughly 2,400 concealed carry applications. Meanwhile, 4,800 additional applications have not even been opened yet.
Wade Duty, who teaches concealed carry courses, said his students are seeing the impact of the backlog.
"Traditionally, the timeline has been running four to five weeks. Now with the backlog and the loss of overtime for the folks that process these applications, we're seeing that push out to eight weeks or greater, and I'm hearing instances of even longer than that," said Duty, who is co-owner of Precision Firearms.
Duty said his students have been understanding of the delays.
"I think the individuals that are conscientious and law-abiding will go through the process regardless of the hiccups it may have," Duty said. "Individuals
who are inclined to say well 'that's not convenient for me, that takes too long probably' aren't the ones interested in pursuing a legal permit anyway."
Come next year, those delays could continue. With Louisiana still short a projected $600 million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, State Police could face a multi-million dollar cut.
The plan passed earlier this month by the House included a roughly $19 million cut to the State Police. Under those conditions, the overtime needed to process those permits may not be available.
"I have to work with the budget I've been given," Edmonson said. "But when that budget is far less than the budget you need to maintain normalcy within the department, not emergency, just normalcy, it becomes problematic."
The Senate will get to modify the budget plan starting next week. Meanwhile, the governor has expressed continued interest in holding a second special session to help increase revenue and thereby reduce cuts to state agencies.