|Off-duty law carry is back!|
|Written by Mark Nichols|
According to an article in the Times Picayune Newspaper out of Louisiana written by reporter Lauren McGaughy, “It's one of the worst-kept secrets that off-duty police officers in Louisiana often flout state law by bringing their service weapons into bars and restaurants that sell alcohol.” Now a state lawmaker is proposing that such restrictions by done away with in order to increase public safety and officer alike.
This will be the second time in two years that state Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, has filed legislation to do away with a state law that bars off-duty law enforcement officers from carrying firearms into establishments that serve alcohol.
As the law stands now only on-duty cops "acting in the performance of ... official duties," may carry firearms. But they’re not the only ones. Bar or restaurant owners and their employees may openly carry firearms in such establishments.
For a variety of reasons the bill proposed again this year failed last year after it was amended to allow anyone at all to open-carry in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.
The issue is near and dear to the heart of Rep. Burns. He’s best known for another proposal that would allow concealed carry in churches.
But there was some question about whether or not the new law would be necessary because the law banning off-duty cops from carrying in establishments that serve alcohol has never been enforced.
Some critics of Burns’ proposal say that current law expressly restricts off-duty police officers from carrying in such establishments.
But the fact that law enforcement officials supported enforcement of no-carry policies, as articulated by state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell when he issued an opinion supporting a strict reading of the statute brought Burns’ proposal back to life.
Burns says that this time around he expects his fellow lawmakers as well as law enforcement agencies to support his legislation.
Burns said the law would solve a lot of problems.
By preventing cops from carrying firearms in places that serve alcohol the state is basically turning law enforcement officers into lawbreakers.
In addition he pointed out that police officers are expected to be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So even if an off-duty cop’s co-worker is working something like an overtime security detail and is armed, the off-duty officer could also be called on to help out in the event of an emergency like a shooting or an armed robbery.
It will be interesting to see if the same concerns raised during the 2013 legislative session are likely to reemerge in the current debate.
One of the biggest problems according to state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, is the almost total lack of support for the legislation from law enforcement groups.
"I find that I have a lot of contacts with law enforcement and no one in law enforcement has ever asked for this bill," said Morrell, who chairs the Senate committee that killed the bill last year.
It’s unclear if the bill does not enjoy the support of law enforcement organizations because the current law is not enforced or if it’s an awareness issue.
Morrell said Burns would likely have the same difficulties getting his bill through as he did in round one.
"People are going to have some second thoughts" if private groups like the Louisiana Shooting Association support the bill while law enforcement groups like the Louisiana Sheriffs Association remain quiet.
"Law enforcement has not shown up for it, and private groups that seek the expansion of concealed carry everywhere are in favor of it," Morrell said. Burns "has to show up with at least at a couple of law enforcement agencies with him."
Louisiana Sheriffs Association President Tom Mancuso told reporters his organization had yet to discuss the legislation and could not make a statement until every sheriff had a chance to weigh in.
Burns said part of the problem in terms of winning the backing of law enforcement groups might be the fact they didn't want to put the words "law enforcement," "guns" and "alcohol" in the same sentence.
written by GC907, February 14, 2014