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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

House committee approves second amendment bill

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Louisiana has dozens of gun laws on the books. State Sen. Neil Riser filed Senate Bill 303, a constitutional amendment that aims to expand and protect the second amendment right to bear firearms. His bill would "require that any denial, infringement, or restriction on one's right to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms for defense of life and property be subject to a strict scrutiny standard by courts in determining any violation of the right."

This afternoon, Louisiana’s House committee on criminal justice voted 9-5 in favor of the bill. The bill, according to Riser, “will give Louisiana the strongest second amendment right in the nation.” The bill's opponents fear Riser’s bill would open a door for litigation to rule those 80-plus laws unconstitutional, creating a gun-toting free for all. It now enter the House for a vote and will likely end up on November ballots where its fate will ultimately be decided by voters.

State Reps. Roy Burrell, Dalton Honore, Barbara Norton, Terry Landry and Helena Moreno repeatedly asked why Louisiana needs the additional “protection.” “I’m just trying to figure out how this gun bill is going to make Louisiana better and make citizens safer,” Landry asked, adding he doesn’t want to send the state back to “the wild wild west of this country.”

Norton asked, “Why is it you’re bringing this bill here? Who asked you to bring this bill?” Riser said it was a collaborative bill with support from the National Rifle Association. “I asked them to help me on this,” Riser said. “This was something I personally wanted to do and they have a wealth of knowledge on this.”

(When asked by Norton to name three places he’d like to carry a firearm that he can’t under current law, Riser said he’d like to bring it to the Capitol building, any person’s home, and across parade grounds — all currently prohibited.)

Riser said he wanted to introduce the bill to protect second amendment rights from future legislative bodies, should they introduce additional gun control bills, or “a liberal body in the future that won’t let me shoot a pellet gun in my yard,” he said.

The Louisiana Constitution currently supports the "right of each citizen to keep and bear arms" and allows the "passage of laws to prohibit the carrying of weapons concealed on the person." Riser's bill removes language prohibiting concealed weapons.

Louisiana district attorneys Charles Ballay of Plaquemines Parish, Leon Cannizzaro of Orleans Parish and John DeRosier of Calcasieu Parish all testified against the bill, fearing its language would promote litigation that could rule other gun control laws unconstitutional. Cannizzaro’s fierce testimony included a laundry list of gun violence in the parish, adding, “I can guarantee you (the amendment) does not stop crime in Orleans Parish.”

State Rep. Terry Brown said letting voters decide the amendment’s fate is the “American way. … We’re not doing anything other than letting people of Louisiana decide for themselves.”

The bill also faces opposition from the Council for a Better Louisiana, which wrote in statement its fear the current restrictions on gun ownership (felons, minors, on university campuses, state buildings, airports and bars) could be subject to challenge under the amendment. The bill says that for those laws to be upheld, they must meet “strict scrutiny” guidelines, which legally is near-impossible to defend.

In his closing statement, Burrell said the amendment could make “the Civil War look like a tea party. … I hate to even think where we’re going.”

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