BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In 2016, more than 29,600 people in Louisiana had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, according to records from Louisiana State Police. To get that permit, a person must be at least 21-years-old with no criminal record, go through a gun training class, and pay a fee.
However, House Bill 68 by Baton Rouge lawmaker, Rep. Barry Ivey, would do away with the permitting process. That means anywhere a person can legally carry a gun openly, they could also carry a concealed gun without a permit. Convicted felons would still not be allowed to carry.
At least 11 states now allow concealed carry of a firearm without a permit, sometimes called "Constitution carry." According to the National Rifle Association (NRA), another 16 states are considering it, including Louisiana.
"In my opinion, the Constitution says you have a right to keep and bear, so how you carry it, whether concealed or open, should not be determined by state law," said Ivey.
This is Ivey's fourth attempt to pass such a bill through the state legislature. It's a divisive issue among lawmakers, and even among those considered experts on firearms. Joel Cheney, a firearms instructor, supports the bill and believes the current concealed carry laws restrict the second amendment.
"Freedom's messy, offensive, and dangerous. So you can either accept and live in a free, you know, society, or you can have people tell you exactly how your freedom's going to be doled out," said Cheney.
However, Paul Murray with Shooters USA gun range in Bossier City says lack of knowledge about a firearm can be dangerous. "That's where people get hurt is they're not familiar with their weapons. They'll, you know, take the magazine out and still pull the trigger and there's a bullet there," said Murray.
It's the lack of safety training that also worries the group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. The group is a part of Everytown for Gun Safety. They are already appealing to lawmakers to reject the bill.
"There's a list of many reasons that you wouldn't get a permit, so if you take away the permitting system, you not only are taking away the training requirement, which is important, but also giving people access to conceal carrying weapons on them that shouldn't," said Moms Demand Action spokesperson, Lori Maraist.
Meanwhile, Ivey says it's a matter of constitutional rights. "A law that restricts the possession or carry of a firearm only does so for the law abiding," said Ivey.
House Bill 68 has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.