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Bills to loosen concealed firearm guidelines clear La. House panel

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA) - Louisianians with concealed carry permits would be granted more places to bring their firearms, under legislation advanced Thursday in a state House committee.

The House Administration of Criminal Justice panel voted 9-8 in favor of House Bill 602, from Rep. Blake Miguez (R-Erath). The measure would let visitors at schools or universities — namely parents and relatives of students — carry guns on campus.

”No one can defend themselves better than themselves,” he told lawmakers. ”No one can defend of protect their kids better than parents.”

Students and school employees would still be barred from carrying firearms onto the premises. The legislation still lets schools prohibit guns from certain buildings or rooms, though administrators would not be able to issue uniform bans across the school grounds.

Miguez drafted his bill in response to February’s deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. He said under looser restrictions, gun owners could help thwart similar tragedy before police arrive.

“The police, they’re here to arrest the bad guy and to enforce the law,” he said. “But who provides defense for those individuals and their loved ones?”

Opponents scoffed at the possibility of more guns in schools.

”Imagine the confusion and fear in a school when a student, administrator or teacher sees someone carrying a gun,” said Cynthia Posey with the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. “They don’t know that this person has a concealed carry permit.”

”If there is a school shooting, and this concealed weapon [carrier] brandishes his weapon, and the police see him with a gun, he can be shot by the police,” said Rep. John Bagneris (D-New Orleans).

”I can’t even envision being in a school system where this is possible,” said Rep. Barbara Carpenter (D-Baton Rouge), a former educator.

The bill has opposition from the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, which operates many Catholic schools across the state.

Miguez’s legislation has backing from the National Rifle Association.

Votes within the House committee stuck to party lines. All nine supporters of the bill are Republicans. Among the eight opponents, seven are Democrats and one is an independent. The measure now heads to the House floor for further debate.

Additional legislation advanced Thursday would let individuals with concealed carry permits volunteer as armed guards at houses of worship. Current law already allows churches, synagogues, mosques and other temples to pay for security, though Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) said some rural facilities cannot afford the cost.

”There are domestic terrorists that we see all across this nation,” he said. “The patriots of this nation are not going to stand for it. We’re going to put an end to it, point blank.”

The House criminal justice panel voted 9-7 for Riser’s bill, which has already won Senate approval. It heads next to the House floor.

Most other gun-related bills have failed in the state Legislature this year. One such measure proposed letting teachers carry firearms in schools, while another suggested allowing armed civilians work security on campuses. A Democrat-led push to prevent those under 21 from buying assault weapons met a similar fate.

Conversely, state Senators passed a bill to let individuals carry bulletproof backpacks at school. The House is set to consider the legislation, from Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), in the coming weeks.

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