NEW ORLEANS -- Invoking the mass shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers last week at a Texas elementary school, a panel of Louisiana legislators has converted a bill that would allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit into one allowing trained teachers to carry guns on public school campuses.
Until the shooting in Uvalde, Rep. Danny McCormick's House-passed bill doing away with the need for concealed-carry permits appeared to be on track for passage in the Senate — and a likely veto from Gov. John Bel Edwards, who rejected similar legislation last year.
But Uvalde appears to have changed the bill's trajectory. The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee considered the bill Wednesday night in Baton Rouge — as one member noted that news was breaking of a mass shooting in Oklahoma. Two senators cited surveys of residents indicating opposition to allowing concealed weapons without mandatory training and permits.
Then, state Sen. Eddie Lambert, a Republican from Gonzales, offered the amendment allowing an elementary or secondary school to allow designated volunteers from among its teachers and administrators, to undergo police-style training to carry concealed weapons on campus and serve as “school protection officers.”
Lambert's amendment removed McCormick's original no-permit language.
“Why can't we do both?" asked Sen. Jay Morris, a West Monroe Republican, who authored the bill vetoed last year by Edwards.
“You're right, but we're going to talk about realities in politics right now,” said Lambert, who didn't want the two controversial issues tied together. “Rep. McCormick can always bring the bill next year.”
As of Thursday, it was uncertain that either concept — no-permit concealed carry or arming teachers — would survive in the final days of Louisiana's 2022 legislative session. Lawmakers faced an adjournment deadline of 6 p.m. Monday.
McCormick said in an interview Thursday that he believes at least some of those who supported Lambert's amendment simply wanted to kill his bill, which was approved 64-27 in the House in April. Still, he said he supported Lambert's idea and had not decided whether he would try to get his original language restored in the session's final days.
Leaders of the state's major teacher organizations expressed opposition to the revamped bill.
“Teachers are expected to provide their own gun, obtain their own concealed carry firearm permit, complete a minimum of 400 hours of training on their own personal time and carry all the responsibility and liability if anything goes wrong,” said Cynthia Posey, legislative director for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
Tia Mills, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators said providing security isn't the proper role for teachers. “That's not what educators went into the profession to do,” Mills said.
McCormick's original bill drew notably strong opposition in a state where guns are popular and voters approved a 2012 state constitutional amendment affirming gun rights. Opponents included various law enforcement officials and Edwards. The Democratic governor is a military veteran who has touted his love of hunting and fishing and support for gun ownership. But he has said allowing the carrying of concealed weapons without training and permits would be bad policy.
Efforts in the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature to override last year's veto failed.