Gun bills narrowly pass House committee

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Two bills expanding the rights of gun owners narrowly passed the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice on Thursday.

Senate Bill 402, authored by Sen. Neil Riser, allows church members with concealed carry permits to volunteer and act as security guards during services and meetings. Riser says churches are currently allowed to hire security guards, but many rural churches do not have the money to pay those wages.

"There are crazy people out there," Riser said. "There are domestic terrorists that we have, that we've seen all across the nation. And the patriots of this nation aren't going to stand for it, and they're going to defend themselves, and we're gonna' put an end to them."

Riser's bill passed by a vote of 9 to 7. The bill has already passed the Senate floor.

Later Thursday afternoon, a bill by Rep. Blake Miguez sparked a long debate. House Bill 602 allows visitors at schools (such as parents or family members) with concealed carry permits to bring guns on campus. The bill does not apply to students or teachers. It also allows schools to designate certain areas or buildings as "gun free."

Miguez argued that in the case of mass shootings, visitors should be able to defend themselves and their loved ones.

"The police cannot be a personal security force," Miguez said. "They can't be there immediately. They do a great job, but most of the response times probably average 10 to 15 minutes. Who is going to defend in that 10 to 15 minutes? Who is going to defend themselves and their family?"

Opponents said the bill faced heavy opposition from teachers and school systems. Rep. Barbara Carpenter, a former educator, was especially vocal about her opposition.

"I didn't receive one call in favor of this bill from anyone from the educational side of the arena," Carpenter said. "I can't even envision being in a school system where this is possible."

After debate, the bill also passed the House, this time by a single vote, 9 to 8.

Both bills head to the House floor for debate.

Copyright 2018 WAFB. All rights reserved.