Three 'gun rights' bills advanced to House during Wednesday hearing
BATON ROUGE — Three "gun rights" bills were advanced to the House by the Administration of Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday; one of the bills would allow people to carry guns into churches and another would stifle a local government's ability to regulate firearms at public buildings and commercial establishments in its jurisdiction.
According to The Advocate, the bills were supported in a 10-1 vote.
Some lawmakers explained that the proposed legislation is meant to offer protection from criminals who attempt to carry out shootings in places that were once considered 'safe,' such as churches, playgrounds, and other public establishments.
“Common sense should tell us that we shouldn’t have to protect ourselves in church. Criminals have certainly defined another narrative for us," State Representative Bryan Fontenot said.
The other bill, which would repeal an exception in current state law that allows local governments to regulate how firearms are carried within their jurisdiction, was supported in a vote of 7-3.
This proposed legislation, House Bill 140, would override ordinances in communities – like Baton Rouge, Mandeville, Hammond, Kenner, and Thibodaux – that limit carrying firearms into playgrounds, water parks, public parks, public buildings and commercial establishments where families and children visit.
Supporters of HB140 argued that allowing local authorities to decide has created a patchwork of laws across the state.
As issue surrounding "gun rights" remain a sensitive subject, tempers flared during Wednesday's hearing and one person was even ejected from the meeting.
Nolan Boutte, a member of victim’s rights group, questioned legislators who were looking at their cell phones.
“Sorry, you paying attention to me?” Boutte asked Rep. Tony Bacala, the Prairieville Republican sitting as chair of the committee.
Bacala told Boutte that the procedures did not allow for witnesses to question committee members.
“This is what I was talking about the ‘Wizard of Oz’ mentality and people wanting to be the wizard,” Boutte replied.
Bacala ordered Boutte to be escorted out of the building.
“Our victims are dying on the streets,” Boutte said as the sergeant-at-arms grabbed the microphone.
“This is our Legislature: Fantasyland,” Boutte said as he left the hearing room.
The meeting concluded with committee members approving House Bill 781, which would remove the ability of the governor, chief law enforcement officers, along with local and parish government executives from regulating the sale and dispensing of firearms and ammunition during an emergency.