Drunk people are not known for making good decisions. In Louisiana, where permissive concealed carry is as old and dear a tradition as drinking to excess, lawmakers have — mostly accidentally — passed a bill that allows concealed carry weapons into establishments that serve alcohol.
Called House Bill 48 and sponsored by Republican Representative Henry Burns, the bill was originally understood to allow off-duty police officers to carry their weapons into bars and restaurants. By the time the bill passed the House, however, an amendment by Helena Morales, a Democrat, had changed the language to allow anyone to bring a loaded weapon into a restaurant that serves alcohol without being prosecuted. Not just off-duty police officers, not just concealed carry permit holders. Anyone.
“Probably none of us understood the ripple effect,” admitted Burns, in a statement made to The Times-Picayune.
The bill still has to make it through the senate to be passed into law, but Burns is already trying to distance himself from the mistake, and reminded Louisiana restaurant and retail store owners that they can post signage barring guns from their establishments.
Besides House Bill 48, 10 other pro-gun rights bills were filed ahead of Louisiana’s 2013 legislative session. These bills also make it easier and cheaper to buy, carry and sell guns in the state.
Louisiana has the highest rate of gun deaths in the country. Between 2001 and 2010, Louisiana residents were killed at a rate of nearly 19 per 100,000 people. The left-leaning Center for American Progress linked this to permissive gun laws. On the other hand, right-leaning organizations and gun owners see these high death rates as a call to make guns even more accessible.
In a sign of how inured the Louisiana legislature, and perhaps the state’s populace in general, has become to the idea of a gun holstered under every sport coat, is the bill the house of representatives passed on the same day at the guns-and-booze bill.
House Bill 718 is meant to be Louisiana’s answer to the Newtown Massacre that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary school. Rather than tighten gun laws, or indeed implicate guns in any way, House Bill 718 focuses on requiring school to have a “crisis management and response” plan in place.
Schools would be instructed to lay out their crisis management plans in strict coordination with law enforcement, fire, public safety and emergency preparedness officials. Principals would be required to have live-shooter drills (think fire or earthquake drills, but instead of putting the fear of nature in you, it’s the fear of humanity’s social ills, and of any high-strung or overly despondent classmate). Schools would also be required to provide counseling in case of a mass shooting.
In a state where carrying guns is easy, fast and cheap, I suppose it’s important to be prepared for the eventuality of tragedy.