BATON ROUGE — Louisiana schools would no longer be gun-free zones under a measure that won approval Wednesday in the House.
After a heated debate, lawmakers voted 59-36 for a bill that would allow visitors with concealed carry permits to carry guns on school campuses.
Republican Rep. Blake Miguez's bill doesn't allow teachers or school employees to carry firearms and lets schools prohibit firearms from their facilities. His proposal moves to the Senate for debate.
"We ought to send a message that we support the 2nd Amendment," he said. "We support individual's rights to defend themselves."
The measure was met with fierce criticism from Democratic lawmakers who argued guns at schools would inevitably lead to more school shootings and said that the state's requirements for concealed carry permits are wholly inadequate to deal with active shooter situations.
Opponents attempted to send the proposal to a public vote and exempt East Baton Rouge Parish from the measure, but were voted down in the GOP-controlled chamber.
Rep. Terry Landry, a former state police superintendent, said lawmakers are sending mixed messages to both children and educators by backing the bill.
"Somewhere in this debate we have to think about what we are doing and we have to think about the consequences, unintended consequences, that could result from some of our actions," he said.
Lawmakers have grappled with gun regulations all session following a shooting at a Florida high school where 17 people were killed. Democrats have been proposing gun restrictions as Republicans advocate for the loosening of firearm rules. Most of the measures have been unsuccessful.
Bills that sought to let armed civilians act as campus security guards, allow teachers to carry guns at school and ban the sale of assault weapons to people under the age of 21 have failed. Miguez's bill is one of the only proposals to advance.