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New Orleans Officials Lose Bid to Carve Out French Quarter From Constitutional Carry Law

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When Louisiana’s Constitutional Carry law takes effect on July 4th, legal gun owners will be able to carry in New Orleans’ French Quarter, though it could cost them quite a bit of money if they decide to mix alcohol and their Second Amendment rights. New Orleans officials have been seeking a various carveouts to the Constitutional Carry law, at times suggesting the entire city should be exempt from the new law. 

A proposal from Republican Rep. Kirk Talbot would have required a concealed carry license for those bearing arms in the Quarter and throughout much of the downtown business district, but after coming under pressure from 2A groups, Talbot has revised his legislation and removed the offending language.

The only carveout in his bill now is that fines for negligent carrying of a firearm in the French Quarter, including while intoxicated, would be increased from $500 up to $1,000. 

His bill, SB 419, passed the Senate Committee on Local and Municipal Affairs on a 4-2 vote. Talbot said he still hopes to address police concerns over the new concealed-carry law’s impact on the Vieux Carre as it moves forward.

“I voted for every pro-gun, Second Amendment bill there ever has been,” Talbot said. “It’s about safety and about police…You’re going to have more criminals walking around with guns, and I can tell you this: Beware if you go to the French Quarter.”

No offense to Talbot, but that’s been the case for my entire adult life. I first visited New Orleans back in college, and while my memories of that Spring Break trip are hazy thanks to a combination of the passage of time and the ungodly amount of booze I poured down my gullet that week, I vividly recall being warned from a resident not to walk down a particular street that led away from the touristy part of the Quarter late one night because there were some fellas looking to jump and rob the next drunk tourist who stumbled across them. 

If I were to visit today, I’d gladly trade my ability to down a Hurricane or two while walking on Bourbon Street for the ability to carry a handgun in self-defense. New Orleans is a fun city, but it’s never been particularly safe. That’s all the more reason why there shouldn’t be a Constitutional Carry carve-out. We have the right to armed self-defense, and that right isn’t negated just because criminals may be carrying too. 

Gun-rights groups came out against Talbot’s original bill, which had included a French Quarter carveout and also proposed barring concealed firearms without a permit at school or pro sporting events statewide. On Wednesday, they attacked his substitute bill as redundant, calling it a misguided effort to treat some gun owners differently. 

They pointed to a provision in the new permitless concealed carry law that will allow police to continue to stop and question someone suspected of carrying a concealed gun while intoxicated and also requires them to notify law enforcement when approached. 

Gun rights advocates still objected to a provision in Talbot’s revised bill that upped the stakes for those caught drinking and packing. 

Kelby Seanor, state director of the National Rifle Association, argued the French Quarter was not so unique when it comes to guns and alcohol. Seanor pointed to other cities with entertainment districts that allow open-carry of alcohol, in states with permitless concealed carry of firearms, that haven’t created carveouts.

“We’re already trying to repeal back parts of constitutional carry without even letting the law go into effect,” Seanor said.

I understand the desire to let the bill take effect before lawmakers start offering tweaks, but I also don’t think it’s fair to call increasing the existing penalty for carrying while intoxicated from $500 to $1,000 a “carveout” or to suggest that it somehow represents a partial repeal of the new Constitutional Carry law. Like it or not, there’s already a law in place fining folks for negligently carrying a firearm. Increasing the penalty in the French Quarter, known worldwide for its debauchery and drunken revelry, may be premature and unnecessary. Still, it’s also far less oppressive than requiring a carry license or turning the Quarter into a “gun-free zone”, which is what some New Orleans officials have demanded, and it’s likely to withstand a legal challenge.  

When Talbot introduced his bill I suggested that he needs to face a primary opponent the next time he’s up for re-election. Based on his most recent comments, I still believe that’s a good idea. He’s made it pretty clear that if he had his way he wouldn’t have gutted his legislation to remove the real carveouts to the new Constitutional Carry law. His constituents should have a choice between someone who’ll stand up for their Second Amendment rights and someone who seems to merely pay lip service to them. 

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