BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — State lawmakers would be exempt from many weapons restrictions imposed on the public under a bill nearing final legislative passage, which passed a House committee Tuesday.
The House criminal justice committee voted 10-2 for the Senate-approved measure by Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, after amending it to say lawmakers must be deemed mentally stable.
Under the measure, lawmakers could carry a weapon where judges and district attorneys can carry them, in public buildings including courthouses and state offices, provided they go through annual training and a psychiatric evaluation.
Allain argued that lawmakers need to be able to defend themselves since they are often threatened.
"This is a measure for personal protection," he said.
Bradley Gulotta, of Gun Rights Across America, opposed the proposal, saying legislators shouldn't get more favorable treatment than their constituents.
"Under the constitution, we have equal protection under the law," Gulotta said.
He said the government should not limit gun possession for law-abiding citizens because it gives criminals illegally carrying guns an advantage.
Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, disagreed.
"Any civilized society has to have some limitations," Burrell said.
Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, one of two opponents of the bill, it would lead to more dangerous situations, resembling the "wild, wild west."
"Why do we feel so comfortable with that?" she asked Allain.
Allain said lawmakers are often targeted and need to be able to defend themselves and families. He said the bill was not about treating lawmakers better than citizens, but about adding legislators to an existing list of exemptions.
"We are not creating a special class," he said.
The Senate-approved proposal moves to the full House for consideration.
The bill also would remove a current exemption in law that allows judges, district attorneys, constables, justices of the peace and others to carry handguns at the Louisiana Capitol.
Allain couldn't persuade his colleagues to let lawmakers have weapons in the building, so he wants judicial officials treated the same way.