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Worries about guns in school mount as permitless concealed carry law looms


Worries about guns in school mount as permitless concealed carry law looms

Apr 19, 2024 | 2:47 pm ET
By Allison Allsop
Worries about guns in school mount as permitless concealed carry law looms
Republican Sen. Rick Edmonds' bill to require schools to purchase gun-detection software has passed through the Senate Education Committee. (Allison Allsop)

Starting July 4, it will be legal for most people in Louisiana to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. Ahead of the effective date, lawmakers want to increase gun safety for schools and students.

Schools might be required to purchase expensive technology to spot guns on campus if a bill makes its way through the Legislature. 

Rep. Ed Larvadain, D-Alexandria, specifically called out the concealed carry law from the special crime session as part of the reason for his bill. 

Sen. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, explained that since COVID-19 and because of recent legislation, more and more people are buying guns. He called his bill an act of responsibility for the safety of the community. 

Gun detection software

Senate Bill 442, one of three gun-related bills heard Wednesday in legislative committees, would require schools to purchase firearm detection software. 

“Children on our campuses are not our commodities,” bill author Sen. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, told the Senate Education Committee. “They’re our babies. They’re our children, and we’ve got to do everything in our power to be able to protect them. 

The software, used with security cameras schools already have in place, can detect firearms that are not concealed. Edmonds’ bill requires that camera footage be constantly monitored by “highly trained analysts” who will spot when the software detects a gun and decide whether police should be contacted. 

A fiscal note for the legislation indicated the cost of the technology ranges from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the size of the school campus. It suggests schools with any money remaining from the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022 spend it on the gun-spotting technology. 

Last year, the state school board provided 39 of the state’s 70 public school districts grants totaling $518,355 each for the purpose of “hardening school perimeters.”  

Schools will only be allowed to purchase anti-terrorism software included in the federal Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act. Kieran Carroll, chief strategy officer with ZeroEyes, told the committee roughly 1,100 vendors offer software that meets those requirements. 

ZeroEyes, an artificial intelligence technology company, is one of those companies.

Metal detectors at school entrances

Larvadain’s House Bill 801 would require schools to purchase metal detectors if they did not already have them. Either handheld or walk-through equipment could be used.

Larvadain said his proposal was in response to specific concerns about younger parents and high school students bringing firearms onto campus. 

“I want to make sure that when a person goes to these schools, they go with love and concern. I don’t want weapons at elementary schools by no means,” Larvadain said.

Larvadain ultimately chose to turn his bill into a study resolution. Typically, legislators will choose to turn their bills into studies when they feel it does not have enough support to pass. 

After Larvadain’s presentation and declaration of turning it into a study, he still faced some pushback from the committee. 

Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, said that the metal detectors she has seen in schools are simply ignored by visitors. 

Gun safety training 

Senate Bill 424, by Sen. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, and Rep. Alonzo Knox, D-New Orleans, would require elementary schools to teach gun safety. It advanced from the Senate Committee on Education without objection.

Such courses are currently allowed at Louisiana schools but not mandated. 

A gun safety curriculum would be created at the discretion of a local school system, which can decide what to teach and how long the curriculum lasts. The bill only requires the course be age and grade-appropriate. 

The bill encourages local school systems to use free resources for their gun safety programs, explaining that the Legislature doesn’t intend to create an unfunded mandate. 

Instruction must be based on a program designed to promote firearm accident prevention and safety, such as the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program the National Rifle Association has developed or the Louisiana Law Enforcement for Gun Safety program, according to the bill.