Closer look: Law disarms off duty officers in bars

LA AG: Off-duty officers may not carry guns into bars, restaurants

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The Louisiana Attorney General's opinion on off-duty officers carrying firearms into establishments that serve alcohol will likely prompt another effort to change the law.

It's not uncommon to see a police officer walk into a restaurant to have lunch and have their firearm with them. But according to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, that's illegal under the current law in Louisiana if the place sells alcohol.

He was asked for an opinion on RS. 14:95.5 by State Representative Henry Burns from Haughton. He says police officers are breaking the law all over the state every single day.

But Burns wants police officers to be able to carry their guns into restaurants, even if they do serve alcohol.

He attempted to clear up that language during the last legislative session but his bill, HB 48, was defeated.

Owner of the Real Pickle in Shreveport, Joe Monsour says his restaurant is often visited by Shreveport police officers, and they're often armed.

"I think most restaurant owners, I can't speak for all of them probably encourage an officer to come in with their guns and eat and visit and I know the customers feel comfortable with that," said Monsour.

"Bad people don't do bad things when they get shot right back at," said customer Rob Simenson.

The way the law reads now, some would argue that it's not clear if an armed police officer can come into a restaurant that serves alcohol, but the AG just released an opinion that might offer some clarification.

RS. 14:95.5 states no person shall intentionally possess a firearm in an alcoholic beverage outlet, but there are exemptions - like police officers. One of the exemptions is a police officer, acting in the performance of his duties. In other words: a police officer showing up to stop a crime. But, what does the law say about an off- duty officer just having lunch?  The AG writes "An off-duty law enforcement officer... for the purposes of being a patron is prohibited from possessing a firearm on the premises."

Part of the confusion could come from the statement in the current law that states the law does not apply to an officer "acting in the performance of his official duties." For many, that statement is wide open to varying interpretations.

The AG also writes about the current law "The legislature could have provided a blanket exemption for law enforcement officers."

Representative Burns will reintroduce his bill in 2014, and this time it'll be accompanied by the AG's opinion.

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