Pro-gun bills approved by La. House panel
BATON ROUGE — With gun control being debated at the federal level, Louisiana lawmakers advanced a batch of bills Wednesday they say are aimed at pre-empting any stricter gun laws that could make it out of Congress.
In heated exchanges over five hours of debate, the House Criminal Justice Committee approved an array of “state’s rights” gun regulations, including bills that would:
—Prohibit the enforcement of any federal restrictions on owning semi-automatic weapons. A requirement that the state attorney general’s office represents those who may be arrested for having federally prohibited guns was amended out of the bill.
—Make it a felony to release or publish the names and addresses of people who own or have applied for concealed handgun permits.
—Create the “Louisiana Manufactured Firearms and Ammunition Act” that would allow gun buyers to circumvent any federal gun laws as long as the guns were manufactured in Louisiana. Of his proposal, Republican committee chairman Joe Lopinto said, “I really hope we don’t need this. It’s all about state’s right.”
The bills now head to the full House for further debate.
Democrat committee member Rep. Terry Landry of New Iberia said the committee was basically “cherry picking” federal laws it wanted to obey. Landry said he supported the Second Amendment and a citizen’s right to bear arms, but said he couldn’t support prohibiting the federal government from enforcing laws in Louisiana.
“I thought we fought the Civil War more than 150 years ago,” Landry said. “What’s next? Will we secede from our country, this great nation?”
Landry said if committee members were opposed to federal regulations then Louisiana shouldn’t accept federal money, including for highway maintenance, education or disaster aid following a hurricane.
“Let’s not take any of that money because we’re a sovereign state,” Landry said.
Republican Rep. Sherman Mack of Livingston said the purpose of the measure to ban enforcement of any potential federal restrictions on semi-automatic weapons was to protect law-abiding citizens and to send a message to federal lawmakers.
“This is what the bill is intended to do, to protect the 99 percent of the people who use guns for the right reason and not sanction them for the 1 percent of the people who don’t,” Mack said. “This bill is designed to make a statement to the federal government that this is what Louisiana stands for.”
Across the nation, the call for revisiting gun control laws grew loud after a deadly attack on a Connecticut elementary school in December left 20 children and six adults dead. The school shooting also galvanized the National Rifle Association to lobby vehemently against any gun restrictions.
The criminal justice committee debated 11 firearm-related bills that left no doubt to the stance of a majority of committee members on efforts to tighten gun laws. They were not having it.
“Don’t Like Guns? Don’t Buy One,” was the message Rep. Terry Brown, an Independent from Colfax, had plastered on his laptop cover that was visible to the audience.
Conversely, a majority of the committee voted down two proposed bills they perceived as infringing on current gun laws.
The measures would have required gun owners to keep guns in a locked container or apply a safety lock when the gun was not in use and would have required prospective gun buyers to take a safety course before the purchase.
Another proposal that received committee approval would provide for a lifetime concealed handgun permit. The bill was amended to require permit holders to still meet education requirements every five years, but would exempt them from having to submit a new application and fingerprints.
By LITTICE BACON-BLOOD