In what will likely go down as one of the most boneheaded moves of the newly-constituted Legislature, the House Criminal Justice Committee voted 11-3 to allow college students to carry guns on campus. The committee members voting against House Bill 199 by Republican Rep. Ernest Wooten of Belle Chasse (who chairs the committee) were Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport; Roy Burrell D-Shreveport; and Republican Frank Howard, a retired Vernon Parish sheriff. Acadiana legislators voting for it were Elbert Guillory of Opelousas and Mickey Guillory of Eunice, both Democrats.
The measure now moves to the full House for debate, where clearer heads are likely to prevail.
The issue of allowing students to carry licensed, concealed handguns on campuses comes in the wake of college shootings across the country, including recent incidents at LSU, where two international students were murdered, and Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge, where the shooter killed two classmates before turning the gun on herself.
While the majority of college students who testified at the three-hour committee hearing spoke against the legislation, committee members did hear from students who support it. According to The Advocate, Southeastern Louisiana University student Geoffrey Green said he wants to be able to defend his friends if necessary. "I feel defenseless," he said. "It's not fair that we're not able to defend ourselves."
In approving the measure, the committee members dismissed a litany of arguments laid out by law enforcement and school officials, including Commissioner of Higher Education (and incoming UL President) T-Joe Savoie, who, according to The Advocate, said permitted gun carriers would be bringing guns from classrooms to LSU's Tiger Stadium -- where, like most college stadiums, raucous students gather and tempers often flare. "That gives new meaning to Death Valley," Savoie said.