LA shall issue 10 years later


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charlesb_la
May 1, 2005, 10:17 AM
http://www.2theadvocate.com/stories/050105/new_handgun001.shtml
Pistol permits, 10 years later

Concealed handguns haven't been as bad -- or as good -- as forecast

By PENNY BROWN ROBERTS
proberts@theadvocate.com
Advocate staff writer


Advocate staff photo by Mark Saltz
Chris Lo, a salesman with Precision Firearms & Indoor Range in Baton Rouge, goes over the proper way to grip a weapon for a woman customer who was test-firing handguns at the range.
When Elizabeth Bourgeois goes out at night, it's always with the same accessory: A .38 automatic.

The south Baton Rouge single mother of two got a permit to carry the holstered gun three years ago -- as did her mother and father, who live next door -- after someone slipped into her home in the middle of the night and stole her purse off the kitchen counter.

"I've been shooting since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, so I didn't just up and do this on the spur of the moment. I started thinking I needed to do something to protect us all," said Bourgeois, a 44-year-old administrative assistant who also keeps a revolver in the house.

"I've never had to use it, thank God," she said, "and I hope I never have to."

It's been nearly a decade since Louisiana gave Bourgeois and others the privilege of packing a pistol for protection.

While Louisiana residents can keep guns in their homes and cars without a permit, the 1996 concealed-carry law opened the door to those who want one strapped to their hip or tucked in their purse as well.

East Baton Rouge Parish has the second-highest total number of hidden handguns and has led the state each of the past five years in the number of people procuring permission to carry one.

That lengthy list includes Miami Heat Center Shaquille O'Neal, 1st Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Robert Downing, Budweiser distributor Gary Mockler and Volunteer Baton Rouge CEO Janet Pace.

Legislators and former Gov. Mike Foster OK'd the law amidst predictions that more than 40,000 gun groupies would line up for permits in the first year alone -- instantaneously transforming the state into the wild, wild West.

Reality has proven far less dramatic.

Louisiana State Police have doled out just 19,920 permits over the years, and refused to grant another 504 to those who applied for one but did not pass legal muster.

Annual reports of the concealed-handgun unit detail five shooting incidents involving permit holders -- including one in 2003 on the Baton Rouge City Public Dock. In two cases, someone was injured; none was fatal.

"It's worked exactly like I thought would," Foster said. "Law-abiding citizens have gotten permits so they can protect themselves, and we've really had no problems with it."

Training required

Louisiana has long allowed its residents to keep handguns in their homes or cars without a permit, as long as felony convictions or other legal problems don't bar them from possessing one. But before the concealed-carry law, those who wanted one closer at hand needed permission from the local sheriff.

Today, those who complete a firearms training course, pass a criminal background check, are deemed mentally competent and meet other criteria can carry a concealed handgun anywhere except certain government buildings, churches and synagogues, schools, bars and parades.

Louisiana is one of 34 states that grant concealed-carry permits. Vermont is unique in that it has no law against carrying a hidden weapon and does not require a permit; Alabama, Connecticut and Iowa issue them under certain circumstances. Twenty-three of those states honor Louisiana permits, which means residents can tote their handguns there.

Jefferson Parish leads the state with 3,063 permits, followed by East Baton Rouge with 2,393 and Orleans with 2,036. St. Tammany, Caddo, Calcasieu, Lafayette, Bossier, Rapides and Livingston round out the 10 largest hidden-handgun parishes.

Among permit holders, men outnumber women more than 4 to 1. White people constitute nearly 90 percent, and more than two-thirds are between the ages of 40 and 70.

"I would have expected there might be a few more permits," said Lt. Col. Greg Phares of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, who helped get the concealed-carry law passed while chief of the Baton Rouge Police Department.

"But I don't think you measure a law like this by statistics; I think you measure it by doing what's right," the former firearms instructor said. "I don't think guns are for everybody. I think if you're not willing to train with guns, if you're not willing to accept responsibility for safe storage and if you're not willing to keep current on the law, that even though you should have a right to a firearm, it's probably not wise for you to have a firearm. It's a big responsibility."

Seven incidents

In fact, Louisiana State Police have yanked permits from 165 people who were convicted of a felony, lied on their application, were proven mentally incompetent, moved away or otherwise failed to maintain their qualifications.

Another 284 permits were suspended because those who had them neglected to notify the agency of an arrest, are the subject of a protective order or other reasons.

Annual reports to the Louisiana Legislature detail seven incidents involving those with permits to carry a concealed firearm:

n In November 1997, a Jefferson Parish permit holder shot a man who tried to carjack him. No charges were filed.

n In December 1997, a permit-holder trying to help Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputies chase a burglary suspect tripped and his gun discharged into the ground. No charges were filed.

n In March 2003, authorities revoked the permit from a St. Tammany permit holder after he was charged with aggravated battery with a dangerous weapon. The report doesn't provide details of the incident or say whether a gun was involved.

n In May 2003, a man drew his hood over his head and pulled a gun on a Baton Rouge permit holder and his friend at the Baton Rouge City Public Dock. The two exchanged gunfire, and a bullet struck an unarmed companion of the permit-holder in the leg. No charges were filed against the permit-holder, but his permit was suspended after he failed to notify State Police of the incident.

n A Vermilion Parish man lost his permit after he was charged in a bill of information with aggravated assault for firing his weapon at the feet of a co-worker with whom he was arguing in June 2003. No one was injured.

n A 61-year-old Lafayette Parish man lost his permit when he was charged with attempted second-degree murder after pulling his gun on a woman with whom he was arguing in October 2003. No one was injured.

n A Jefferson Parish permit-holder reported firing twice at a masked man who pulled a gun on him while he was unloading his vehicle in a parking lot in January 2004. Authorities don't know if the other man was injured, but no charges were filed.

Louisiana State Police administrators declined to respond to questions on successes or problems with the concealed-handgun law.

In an e-mail Thursday, spokesman Lt. Lawrence McLeary said Col. Henry Whitehorn, state police superintendent, "said there is not enough data for us to spot significant trends, and that is what your questions ask for. So in response to the questions you've submitted, we have no response."

Good and bad

Foster signed the bill into law during his first year in office over protestations of gun control advocates and police officers worried it would put them at risk -- and polls that showed a majority of Louisianians opposed to it.

Richard Haymaker of Louisiana Ceasefire concedes that predicted problems with the law have not panned out. But he is quick to add there's still no proof hidden handguns have brought about a drop in crime, either -- an argument often made by gun advocates.

Haymaker got involved in gun control issues after Yoshihiro Hattori -- a Japanese exchange student staying in Baton Rouge with the Haymaker family -- was shot to death when he went to the wrong house for a 1992 Halloween party.

Louisiana Ceasefire fought the concealed-carry law, and Haymaker said he believes that effort helped bring about some of the restrictions and requirements for permits.

"I still think this was nothing more than a gun-enthusiast bill," said the LSU professor emeritus of physics. "It hasn't done anything to reduce crime. There's been no positive effect."

But Baker Police Chief Sid Gautreaux said he's changed his mind about the law.

He and others in law enforcement initially opposed it out of concern it might endanger officers on the street.

"It's an intense situation when you come across a person you don't know with a concealed weapon," Gautreaux said. "The few minutes it takes to identify them can be tense and a potentially dangerous situation."

But while he still worries about the safety of officers in such encounters, Gautreaux said Louisiana State Police "are doing a good job" overseeing the program and the concealed-carry law "has not posed any problem to us."

"Since the law has been in effect, we haven't had a bad situation develop because of a person carrying a concealed weapon -- and, in fact, we haven't come across that many," Gautreaux said. "Although I was opposed to it for obvious reasons, I feel better with it now than I did then."

Sgt. Don Kelly of the Baton Rouge Police Department -- who also had initial concerns about the concealed-carry law -- said his impression is that it "hasn't had any significant or measurable impact on the crime rate in Baton Rouge one way or the other."

He said there's no evidence of conflicts between officers and any permit holders or crimes being committed. But there aren't any studies indicating it's reduced crime, either.

"What really worried me was that we might see rapid escalations of disputes over things like parking spaces," Kelly said. "But I can't think of a single incident that's happened in Baton Rouge, and that speaks well of the people who are carrying the guns."

Count former East Baton Rouge School Board member Janet Pace as one of those who can carry a gun -- but rarely does.

She got her permit last August -- in part because she's single and in part because she enjoys shooting at targets -- but the .22 caliber Ruger just doesn't conceal very well.

That -- and when it comes to fighting crime, Pace would rather leave that to the professionals.

"Taking the gun safety course has been a great comfort to me, but I still know I'd probably never use the gun," she said. "If anyone ever broke into my house, I'd probably still hide in the bathroom and call the police."

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Monkeyleg
May 1, 2005, 06:56 PM
A pretty balanced article, all in all.

I just wish reporters would get their numbers right. There are 46 states that issue permits, not 34. Granted, a few states make it extremely difficult, but that doesn't affect the numbers.

Standing Wolf
May 1, 2005, 10:23 PM
It's been nearly a decade since Louisiana gave Bourgeois and others the privilege of packing a pistol for protection.

Baloney! Louisiana merely recognizes the right of the people to keep and bearn arms better than some other states. This has nothing to do with privileges, and states don't give rights or privileges to anyone.

DRZinn
May 2, 2005, 01:56 AM
Dude! Next time spell out the name of the state! Gave me a semi.... :p

Sir Aardvark
May 2, 2005, 02:30 AM
Sorry.... I thought that LA meant Los Angeles, not Lo-wheezy-ana.

DRZinn
May 2, 2005, 10:35 AM
Me too, that's what I meant!

RevDisk
May 2, 2005, 11:56 AM
Decent article. Except for the "privilege" comment and the wrong number of States with CCW. It sounds like it was written by an partial anti that is painfully admitting that no floods of blood through the streets, a la The Shining.

TarpleyG
May 2, 2005, 03:40 PM
.38 automatic... :rolleyes:

Must be a .38 Super or something...

Greg

Andrew Rothman
May 2, 2005, 08:10 PM
In an e-mail Thursday, spokesman Lt. Lawrence McLeary said Col. Henry Whitehorn, state police superintendent, "said there is not enough data for us to spot significant trends, and that is what your questions ask for. So in response to the questions you've submitted, we have no response."

Here's a trend: Carry permit holders are overwhelmingly law-abiding, and pose no danger to the police or society.

Yeesh. Justice is blind, sure but do the police brass need to be as well? :rolleyes:

monsternav
May 2, 2005, 10:35 PM
This is interesting:

"She got her permit last August -- in part because she's single and in part because she enjoys shooting at targets -- but the .22 caliber Ruger just doesn't conceal very well.

That -- and when it comes to fighting crime, Pace would rather leave that to the professionals."

So, getting a carry permit makes you a deputy, or something? Or maybe Ms. Pace thinks the Police derive their power only from a gun? If she thinks she is a "crime fighter" when she carries, she needs to have her permit pulled.

DorGunR
May 2, 2005, 11:02 PM
Chris Lo, a salesman with Precision Firearms & Indoor Range in Baton Rouge
Gee guys, I thought that was a dead give away. :rolleyes:

thorn726
May 3, 2005, 12:31 AM
the privilege of packing a pistol for protection.

GReat article, but with the above mindset, ARRRRRRrggggggrrrg.

when it reads "since the Right to pack was restored...."

then we are getting somewhere. as long as the general public goes on thinknig it is a privilege, we'll have problems

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