By Devon Sanders, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE — The Legislature on Tuesday continued a pattern of mixed action on proposals to combat gun violence, as the Senate rejected a bill to raise the legal age of assault weapons while a Senate committee approved a bill to ban bump stocks on semi-automatic weapons.
Both bills were authored by Troy Carter, D-New Orleans.
SB 155, which would have prohibited the sale of assault weapons to anyone under the age of 21, failed on the Senate floor with 9 votes in favor, and 26 opposed. The current minimum age to buy the weapons is 18.
Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, voted in favor of the bill in a Senate committee meeting, but switched his vote when the bill reached the Senate floor.
Mills, a pharmacist and bank president who switched his registration from Democrat to Republican in 2010, did not respond to requests for comment. The Times-Picayune reported that ads had popped up in his district urging people to boycott his businesses after he voted for the bill in committee.
SB 491, a bill that would ban the manufacturing, sale, and possession of bump stocks, passed a Senate committee 3-2, and will now be heard on the Senate floor.
A bump stock is an accessory to assault-style rifles that allows the weapon to be fired at the rate of a machine gun. A bump stock was used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, leaving 58 people dead and 851 injured.
The votes on these bills illustrate the divide that the Legislature is facing in how to handle the threat of gun violence, particularly at schools.
Political leaders across the country have been debating similar measures to deal with gun violence in the wake of shootings and threats of violence at schools like the one in Florida that killed 17 high school students and staff members in February.
On Monday, the Louisiana Senate approved a bill by Sen. Michael Walsworth, R-West Monroe, that would allow students to wear bulletproof backpacks to school. The bill was heavily supported, receiving 34 favorable votes and only 2 against it.
Last Wednesday, however, a House committee voted 9-7 to reject a bill by Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, that would potentially have allowed elementary and high-school teachers to carry concealed handguns.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has supported gun-owner rights in the past, has said he was against arming teachers and was meeting with educators and school officials to come up with a more comprehensive school safety proposal.
Edwards is also an advocate for tightening background checks for people trying to get guns with history of mental illness or convicted of a crime.