BOSSIER PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington is making clear his support of Constitutional Carry, which would become law in Louisiana with an override of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of SB 118.
“I stand in support of Constitutional Carry so that law-abiding residents of Louisiana can carry a firearm without having to obtain a permit,” Whittington said in a statement issued Monday.
Lawmakers are still deciding whether to move forward with what would be an historic veto override session during which SB 118 and a number of other bills passed during the regular session but rejected by the governor could be revived.
Authored by state Sen. Jay Morris (R-Dist. 35), the bill would have overturned Louisiana’s concealed permit law that requires a person to pass a background check, complete a firearm training course, be 21-years-old and pay multiple fees.
The bill was co-sponsored by 38 senators, including local state Sens Barrow Peacock (R-Dist. 37), local state Reps Danny McCormick (R-Dist. 1), Alan Seabaugh (R-Dist. 5), Raymond Crews (R-Dist. 8), Dodie Horton (R-Dist. 9).
On May 27, the House passed SB 118 in a 73-28 vote with four abstentions, and on June 1, the Senate passed the bill 27-9 with two abstentions. But on June 25, Edwards announced his decision to veto the bill and on July 2, he did just that.
Whittington’s support of Constitutional Carry goes against a group of Louisiana law enforcement officials who on Thursday held a news conference supporting Edwards’ veto and urging lawmakers not to overcome it.
Although the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association has stayed neutral on the legislation and its veto, several sheriffs spoke in favor of the veto on Thursday, and the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police also opposed the bill and objects to an override of its veto.
In a statement announcing Thursday’s press conference, the Louisiana Law Enforcement Coalition called the bill eliminating permits for concealed carry weapons “a dangerous bill.”
Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webster called SB 118 “a solution without a problem,” explaining how the current permitting process focuses on safe handling and proper storage of firearms, as well as liability laws and ensures proper training.
“As the Constitutionally-elected Sheriff of Bossier Parish, my priority is to ensure the Constitutional rights of our citizens are upheld,” Whittington said in his statement Monday. “My duty as Sheriff is to ensure their 2nd Amendment rights are protected, not guaranteeing they are “trained marksmen.”
“Do I wish everyone was proficient in firearms handling? Absolutely! But the level of ‘training’ with a firearm should not determine whether or not a law-abiding citizen has the right to carry a firearm and defend himself, his family, or other people in danger. Our Constitution already provides that right!
Ask yourself – If you are in the grocery store and a gunman goes around executing people at point-blank, do you really care if a law-abiding armed person who can help you has a permit or not?”
But without that training, law enforcement leaders in the coalition said they think more people will be exposed to a higher risk of violent crimes and more accidental deaths and injuries. They also point out that when they encounter an open carry situation, they at least know that a firearm is present and can take appropriate action to protect themselves and others if necessary.
Whittington, however, dismisses a recent survey that found that 80 percent of the people of Louisiana support requiring a permit for concealed carry weapons, cited by the Law Enforcement Coalition.
In his statement, he said, “Statistics simply do not bear out what some in the media and even some law enforcement leaders are saying – that there is blood in the streets and increased shootings by law-abiding citizens – is baseless and quite frankly not true.
“We in law enforcement are trained to assume everyone could be armed until we know differently. Requiring a permit or firearms training will not affect the way we do business.”
Whittington added that it’s important to note that criminals do not get permits. He said the only person the permitting process hurts is the law-abiding person trying to protect himself and his family.
“My bottom line is clear: As Sheriff, I will protect the 2nd Amendment rights of our law-abiding residents. Upholding those rights is something I fully support, and restricting those rights is something I adamantly oppose.”
Whittingon said that 21 states, “including all of our bordering states,” already recognize the Constitutional rights for their citizens to carry a firearm without having to obtain permission from the government to do so. Louisiana should, too.
“Supporting and protecting the 2nd Amendment right to Keep and Bear Arms is to support Constitutional Carry,” Whittington concluded.