Gun rights bill heads to Nov. vote

Published 12:11 am Thursday, May 31, 2012

BATON ROUGE — Louisiana voters will decide this November whether to strengthen the state’s constitutional protections for their right to bear arms.

Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, sponsored Senate Bill 303, which received final passage Tuesday with a 34-4 vote of the Senate and now heads to the Nov. 6 statewide election ballot for voter approval.

If passed by voters, the Louisiana Constitution would be amended to say that the right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed upon.

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Any restriction on that right would be subject to a “strict scrutiny” by courts.

A “strict scrutiny” standard is the most rigid standard of judicial review in the United States courts and requires the government to prove a “compelling state interest” to restrict the right to bear arms.

Currently, the Louisiana Constitution guarantees the “right of each citizen to keep and bear arms,” but allows the “passage of laws to prohibit the carrying of weapons concealed on the person.”

Under Riser’s proposal, the language about concealed weapons would be removed and the legal standard required to enact gun prohibitions would be more difficult to reach.

The change would give Louisiana the strongest gun protection in the nation and could guard against possible future Supreme Court rulings that might undermine the Second Amendment.

Riser said protecting Louisiana residents’ fundamental rights to bear arms was the main reason for introducing the bill.

“The current law that was enacted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 saying that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right is extremely important,” Riser said. “But that could easily be changed if one of the Supreme Court justices is replaced.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, so this will put in law what we constitutionally believe is our fundamental right.”

Besides strong support from the National Rifle Association, Gov. Bobby Jindal is also standing behind the bill.

“We are adopting the strongest, most iron-clad, constitutional protection for law-abiding gun owners,” Jindal said in a press release. “It’s our own Second Amendment, if you will, and I look forward to voting for this amendment in the fall.”

The amendment will be a “Yes” or “No” vote on the ballot and will read, “Do you support an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Louisiana to protect as fundamental the right of individuals to keep and bear arms?”

With the election more than six months away, Riser said he will be traveling the state informing citizens about the bill before the November election.

“I want to educate people to make sure they know exactly what this bill will do,” Riser said.