Thursday, June 7, 2018

New Orleans City Council requests sheriff's 'immediate adoption' of state law barring domestic violence offenders from firearms

Posted By on Thu, Jun 7, 2018 at 1:10 PM

New Orleans City Hall - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • New Orleans City Hall

The New Orleans City Council urges the Orleans Parish Sheriffs Office to begin implementing a new state law that requires sheriffs to collect restricted firearms from people convicted of domestic violence or subjects of protective orders.

New Orleans state Sen. J.P. Morrell drafted a measure — signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards on May 20 — that designates sheriffs as repositories for firearms in the possession of abusers. The law adds a framework and teeth to previous statewide efforts that prevent domestic violence offenders from possessing a firearm. Under the new law, sheriffs act as pass-through agencies, along with clerks of court and district attorneys, to enforce those measures.

On June 7, the City Council passed a resolution urging the sheriff to immediately comply with the law, which has a start date effective Oct. 1. "We would like our sheriff to start working on this much faster," said Council Vice President Helena Moreno, who authored several domestic violence bills while in the state legislature. The City Council resolution aims to "expedite the process for the sheriff to implement these policies," she said.

The City Council "fully supports the early adoption of Louisiana legislative mandates that curtail the continued risk to victims and restricts access to firearms and ammunition by domestic abusers" the resolution says. The members "formally request the immediate adoption" of those new measures, which include building programs and policies to enforce them.

Louisiana consistently ranks among states with the highest rates of domestic homicides despite declines in national rates. In 2017, 73 percent of domestic homicides in Louisiana were committed with firearms.

Another measure passed this year, from state Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, requires proof of service of temporary protective orders or protective orders to be submitted to the Louisiana Protective Order Registry, which can be accessed by law enforcement.

“We know that domestic violence and firearms are a deadly combination," Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence director Mariah Wineski said in a statement last month. "We also know that protection orders are highly effective when they are properly enforced. These bills will save lives by removing firearms from the hands of abusers and facilitating enforcement of protection orders."

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

New Orleans crime cameras get a name as groups plan surveillance expansion and residents speak out

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 8:00 PM


The New Orleans City Council has introduced a resolution to formally name the ubiquitous red-and-blue flashing crime cameras mounted across New Orleans streets "Quality and Neighborhood Safety Cameras."

The resolution follows former Mayor Mitch Landrieu's sweeping public safety plans that called for dozens of cameras in designated "hotspots" and dotting intersections throughout the city. The administration ultimately abandoned a potential network of hundreds of cameras outside bars and restaurants and feeding them into the city's centralized camera monitoring center.

But there remained a parallel surveillance network, one within nonprofit group ProjectNOLA's more than 2,200 cameras outside participating homes and businesses.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

'The suffering has to stop': New Orleans City Council and Moms Demand Action stand against gun violence

Posted By on Thu, May 31, 2018 at 11:45 AM

New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams and members of the City Council with members of Moms Demand Action, a national group promoting an end to gun violence.
  • New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams and members of the City Council with members of Moms Demand Action, a national group promoting an end to gun violence.

Following a Louisiana legislative session that considered expanding gun presence in schools, while school shootings persisted and more than 100 mass shootings spread across the U.S. this year, gun control advocates — clad in orange — plan a weekend of demonstrations around National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2.

The New Orleans chapter of Moms Demand Action will march from the French Quarter to Armstrong Park, beginning at 5 p.m. May 31. The Superdome also will be bathed in orange light June 1.

Members of the New Orleans City Council joined Moms Demand Action members outside City Hall May 31, renewing calls for “common sense” gun control measures to combat gun violence.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

New Orleans organizers help bail out mothers from jail in time for Mother's Day

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2018 at 4:10 PM


A national campaign to help release Black mothers from local jails arrives as Mother’s Day approaches.

Groups in 20 cities across the U.S. are participating in the second annual National Black Mamas Bail Out to raise funds to help bail out incarcerated women from local jails in time for the holiday — while raising awareness of the costs of incarcerating women simply because they’re unable to afford bail, from the costs of separating mothers from children and families and jobs to their heightened risk of trauma and abuse behind bars.

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, since 1970, the number of women in local jails in the the U.S. rocketed from fewer than 8,000 to nearly 110,000 in 2016 — nearly 80 percent are mothers, and nearly 60 percent are women of color. More than 18,500 people are in local jails around Louisiana; 7.6 percent are women, according to the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mitch Landrieu: Gambit's exit interview

Posted By and on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 1:34 PM


After three tries, Mitch Landrieu won the New Orleans mayor’s office in 2010 by a landslide. It was a singular triumph for the then-lieutenant governor, coming one day before the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. Everywhere else in town, however, things were not going so well. After eight years under now-disgraced — and jailed — Mayor Ray Nagin, the city’s post-Katrina recovery stagnated and citizens as well as businesses seemed to lose confidence in New Orleans’ ability to bounce back.

Landrieu brought new energy and focus to the job, and billions of federal recovery dollars have changed the cityscape dramatically. Landrieu points to new recreation centers, new schools, new libraries, a new airport (set to open early next year) and new additions along the riverfront as examples of what may be the largest municipal recovery program in American history.

Equally important, Landrieu worked with the City Council to pull the city out of a $97 million operating deficit in his first year in office. Today, the city’s bond rating is the highest it’s ever been — and the budget has been balanced for seven straight years, with millions in a reserve fund. His administration also has been free of corruption scandals.

But not all went well for Landrieu. The city’s violent crime rate remains too high; his early belt-tightening came at a frighteningly high cost to police manpower; and a downpour last August 5 exposed incompetence, indifference and severe infrastructure deficiencies at the Sewerage and Water Board. If finishing on a high note is what matters, Landrieu’s legacy is tarnished by the S&WB debacle — which is probably why he (with a coterie of top aides and department heads) has gone to great lengths to seek “exit interviews” with local media.

Here is ours.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Morrell's bill to eliminate Louisiana's death penalty passes Senate judiciary committee

Posted By and on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 5:56 PM

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, supported a bill Tuesday to ban the deal penalty in Louisiana. - SARAH GAMARD/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, supported a bill Tuesday to ban the deal penalty in Louisiana.

A Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Louisiana effective August 1. Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, authored the bill, reasoning that the death penalty is an outdated and costly means of punishment.

"The death penalty is an archaic holdover from a time where we were not as civilized as we are today," Morrell said.

Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, provided the only vocal opposition. He argued that abolishing the death penalty would have no effect on the state’s high rate of violent crime.

Morrell responded that “we have had the death penalty on the books since the founding of our state, and it has not deterred violent crime.

“Increasingly, we are finding individuals that commit these violent crimes are mentally unbalanced,” Morrell said. “Many of them are tortured, damaged people who do horrific things because they don’t value human life.”

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ABCs and AR-15s: State Senate approves bill to allow Louisiana students to wear bulletproof backpacks to school

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 3:43 PM

State Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, presented a bill to the Senate that would allow Louisiana students to wear bulletproof backpacks. - PHOTO BY DREW WHITE/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, presented a bill to the Senate that would allow Louisiana students to wear bulletproof backpacks.

In the latest effort to fortify schools, Louisiana children may be able to start wearing bulletproof backpacks to class.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday that would let students wear body armor on school grounds or buses. The bill, which passed 34-2, now heads to the House.

Current Louisiana law prohibits body armor on school property.

“Members, we’ve seen the headlines,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, said. “Currently there is nothing that a parent can do that says to a child that you are protected.”

Two members — Sen. J.P. Morrell and Sen. Karen Peterson, both New Orleans Democrats  — voted against the bill.

“A Kevlar backpack is not a Captain America shield,” Morrell said. “You are not going to run out there blocking bullets with a good outcome.”

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Chickening out on criminal justice reform

Posted By on Sun, Apr 8, 2018 at 11:48 AM


Criminal justice reform was among the few bright spots in last year’s dispiriting legislative session. Lawmakers adopted far-reaching laws that traded “tough on crime” grandstanding for “smart on crime” policies that have been proven to work.

The Justice Reinvestment Task Force, a nonpartisan coalition of conservatives, liberals, clergy, judges, law enforcement, business people and civic leaders, spent a year developing legislation that streamlined Louisiana’s hodgepodge sentencing laws. The reforms were enacted with broad bipartisan support.

Many leading Republicans supported — and still support — criminal justice reform. A handful of ambitious demagogues are now attacking it with lies and scare tactics, not because they care about public safety (the reforms actually promote public safety) but because they hope to grab cheap headlines and run for another office. U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who can’t seem to stop running for something, is the most glaring (and shameless) example.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Louisiana Senate committee backs proposal to raise age for assault weapon purchases

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 1:40 PM

Students participating in the New Orleans March for Our Lives on March 24. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Students participating in the New Orleans March for Our Lives on March 24.

A bill to raise the age for purchasing assault weapons in Louisiana narrowly passed a state Senate committee April 3, after debate among legislators, gun rights advocates, teachers, students and law enforcement officials including New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison. It now heads to the full state Senate.

House Bill 274 would prevent people from under age 21 from purchasing so-called assault weapons, including guns with high-capacity magazines. It also would raise the penalties for unlawful sale to minors from $300 to $1,000.

Harrison argued the bill — introduced by state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans — could decrease the number of so-called assault weapons used to commit mass shootings. Among the hundreds of murders and shootings in New Orleans since his became chief, Harrison said there hasn't been a single instance of someone using an assault weapon to defend themselves — but "a large percentage" of those shootings were committed by a person firing an assault weapon.

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Louisiana House unanimously supports making hazing a felony

Posted By on Mon, Apr 2, 2018 at 8:11 PM

Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver, left, whose son died last fall from hazing, were in the House as it voted Monday on a bill by Rep. Nancy Landry, right, to make hazing a felony. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY WOLF
  • Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver, left, whose son died last fall from hazing, were in the House as it voted Monday on a bill by Rep. Nancy Landry, right, to make hazing a felony.

Louisiana House lawmakers on April 2 unanimously supported a bill that would make hazing a felony.

The “Max Gruver Act,” named after the 18-year-old LSU fraternity pledge who died from alcohol consumption at a fraternity event last fall, would upgrade hazing from a misdemeanor to try to stop the worst abuses.

“This bill will deter, punish, and raise awareness, and that’s what we have criminal statutes for,” bill sponsor Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, said.

The anti-hazing bill passed with a House vote of 87-0. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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