New Orleans area business groups demand tighter gun restrictions in French Quarter

New Orleans area business groups demand tighter gun restrictions in French Quarter

A coalition of New Orleans area business groups, including the city’s main tourism marketing organization, have joined the call for a carveout for the French Quarter and downtown New Orleans from a new law that will allow people to carry concealed firearms without a permit starting in July.

The carveout had been in a bill originally proposed by Sen. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge and was supported by the New Orleans Police Department. However, last week, under pressure from gun rights groups, the latest version of that bill, SB419, now only would bar permitless concealed carry in the French Quarter by people who are intoxicated.

Instructor Isaiah Stewart gives direction to DeShawn Jones at the shooting range during a concealed carry permit course at The Shooter’s Club in Harahan, La. Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (Photo by Max Becherer, The Times-Picayune)

The statement from the business groups on Monday asked that the Louisiana Legislature pass the bill as it was originally written.

“Requiring a permit to conceal a firearm in the French Quarter will continue to allow law enforcement the ability to lawfully search and seize illegally concealed weapons, dramatically reducing the risk of harm,” the statement read.

“We must allow officers the ability to continue to do so in order to provide the protection every person deserves as they gather to recreate, celebrate and enjoy the company of loved ones and friends in our magnificent and historic French Quarter,” it added.

Those signing the statement include Walt Leger, head of tourism marketing agency New Orleans & Co., as well as leaders of the NOLA Coalition, a group of about 500 New Orleans businesses and community activist groups formed two years ago to push for policies to reduce crime.

Also joining the call were leaders of the New Orleans Business Council, the Jefferson Business Council, the Metropolitan Crime Commission and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce.

Sen. Blake Miguez, R-Lafayette, the sponsor of the new permitless concealed carry law, has said that he is reluctant to water it down because he feels those most likely to be illegally carrying concealed weapons in gun-free zones are the criminals.

Louisiana voters seem to be wary of the new conceal carry law, according to a poll conducted last month for the The Times-Picayune | The Advocate. The poll showed that 63% of those responding wanted a return to requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon, with that support running across political party, racial and gender lines.

The statement Monday from the groups seeks to ally business interests with the NOPD.

Last week, NOPD Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick, making her first appearance before the Legislature, argued that the permitless concealed-carry law will strip officers of a tool to approach people suspected of carrying guns illegally.

The statement on Monday backed that stance.

“We strongly support providing our officers with all the tools necessary to protect the public from those who seek to do harm,” it said.

“The French Quarter, which serves as an economic engine for the entire State of Louisiana, attracts more than 15 million people annually,” it added. “It is not uncommon to have hundreds of thousands gather on any given day throughout the year – for example, when as many as 200,000 are expected for the Super Bowl.”

New Orleans is set to host Super Bowl LIX in February and tourism interests and civic leaders have been pushing on several fronts so that the city can put its best face forward. It is the first time the city has hosted the event since 2013 and the media spotlight will be on New Orleans in the run-up to the game as well as for the event itself.

Staff reporter John Simerman contributed to this article.

 This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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