Thursday, May 24, 2012

Controversial gun ownership bill backed in House

Posted By Google on Thu, May 24, 2012 at 5:26 PM

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Earlier this month, members of the state House committee on criminal justice engaged in a heated debate over a controversial piece of legislation that would amend the state constitution to make “denial, infringement, or restriction” on the Second Amendment right to “acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms for defense of life and property” subject to “strict scrutiny” in the courts — meaning the highest standard of judicial review and the strongest legal protection typically reserved for fundamental human rights would apply to gun ownership.

It ultimately passed 9-5 through that committee. Today, Sen. Neil Riser's Senate Bill 303 passed in the full House by a 77-22 vote, and it’ll head to the state Senate for final review before appearing on ballots this November.

Riser argued the bill, which is backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Gov. Bobby Jindal, would make Louisiana’s Second Amendment rights “the strongest in the nation.” Its opponents, however, fear that the bill will open a door for litigation to rule the state’s 80-plus gun laws unconstitutional. Under a “strict scrutiny” clause, the government must prove a “compelling state interest” to restrict the right to bear arms. That means already designated “gun-free” zones, like schools and churches, would potentially be targets of litigation. Currently, the state allows for the passage of laws to prohibit concealed weapons. Riser’s bill removes that language. The Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL), a good-government watchdog, rallied against the bill, as did statewide district attorneys, including Orleans Parish D.A. Leon Cannizzaro.

During today's vote, State Rep. Terry Landry, a former head of the Louisiana State Police, said, “This is about an NRA agenda” that “uses Louisiana and its citizens, its legislature and legislators as a pawn in a bigger scheme,” adding there has “been no conversation” about the threat to the right to bearing arms in the state until the bill’s introduction. “Where now is there a prohibition and restriction that you don't want?” Landry asked. A similar round of questions were aimed at Riser in committee hearings and met with similarly vague answers about preserving gun rights under future legislative bodies.

The House also struck down a provision that gives Legislature explicit authority to limit concealed handguns.

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