|Louisiana is traditionally very gun-owner friendly, and proposed constitutional amendment Act 874 continues that legacy.|
A proposed amendment to the Louisiana constitution has caused much consternation in the firearms community, particularly online in the gun forums.
The 1974 Louisiana Constitution reads:
"11. Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Section 11. The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged, but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to prohibit the carrying of weapons concealed on the person."
Act 874, which will appear on the statewide ballot in November would, if approved by voters, change the wording of this section to read as follows:
"11. Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Section 11. The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be abridged. Any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny."
Much of the criticism of this proposed amendment has been couched in the language of the old platitude: "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."
Under present law, it would be entirely possible for the legislature to enact a statute that "broke" your gun rights. When challenged, it could be upheld by the state Supreme Court as constitutional.
The Louisiana Shooting Association (www.louisianashooting.com) is a long-range rifle club that was formed in the ’60s on the Northshore to promote rifle competition. The club actively promotes youth shooting, and has sent teams to Camp Perry, Ohio, for the national competitions in years past.
Louisiana, with its adamantly gun-friendly atmosphere, has never had a statewide firearms organization like many states — where the legislatures are not nearly so pro-gun.
But the LSA recognized some years ago the need for such an organization to watch and lobby the Louisiana legislature on gun issues. Accordingly, they spread their "tent," and have tried to encompass the shooting interests of other disciplines to enlarge their membership and act as the de facto state firearms association.
The organization has done good work in the past, expanding our firearms rights, such as getting the concealed-carry permit law tweaked so a concealed-carry permit holder would not be in violation of the law by simply strolling within 1,000 feet of a school campus while legally carrying a concealed weapon.
With the changes proposed by the LSA, and enacted by the legislature, a permit holder may carry within 1,000 feet of any campus, as long as he does not enter the grounds of the campus.
This corrected a troubling problem in the original law. Research by the organization showed there were municipalities in the state where it was difficult not to be within 1,000 feet of a school campus. A concealed-carry permit holder could feasibly be arrested for being on the street changing a flat tire while completely unaware of a school campus a block away.
Now, the LSA has started writing its members to answer what it terms false and misguided information about the proposed Act 874.
In a recent email to the membership, President Dan Zelenka (an attorney) stated "… (E)nter the Louisiana judicial system, the branch of government that is supposed to protect us poor citizens from the legislature when it oversteps its constitutional authority. Unfortunately, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that a law that infringes on your right to keep and bear arms is constitutional if it passes the ‘rational basis’ test. Under the rational basis test, the court asks itself whether the legislature had a rational basis for passing the law in question. If the court can discern any rational basis for the law, it will declare the law to be constitutional …."
This means a law which changes, even ends the right to concealed carry could be passed by the legislature, and when challenged in court could be allowed to stand by simply passing "rational basis."
Zelenka’s letter goes on to say:
"Act 874, should it pass in November, provides NO carte blanche authority for the Legislature to restrict concealed carry …. It also states in very clear language the standard of review that must be applied by a Louisiana court. ‘Strict scrutiny’ review requires that the court either find a compelling state interest for the law, or declare it unconstitutional. Finding a compelling state interest is a much higher threshold than merely needing a rational basis ….
To put it another way, under rational basis the presumption is that a restriction is valid unless there is no way to support it. In stark contrast, under strict scrutiny the presumption is that a restriction is invalid unless there is no way to avoid it. This is a huge difference.
Act 874 is very good for gun owners. Several key Louisianians have done us a great disservice by making ignorant statements about this potential improvement to our constitution. In some cases, the statements are made in ignorance. To believe otherwise would be to believe they are anti-gun activists attempting to trick gun owners into voting against a significant pro-gun amendment."
The ballot on November 6 will read:
"Do you support an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Louisiana to provide that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right and any restriction of that right requires the highest standard of review by a court. (Amends Article 1, Section 11)?"
I have been of voting age in Louisiana for the vast majority of my life now, and have been involved in gun rights politics at least that long. In this gun-friendly state, I cannot remember a gun bill furthering our 2nd Amendment rights that did not pass by a huge majority on a statewide ballot.
But Act 874, with its easily misinterpreted legal language, can confuse. We should thank the LSA for their continuing good work protecting our gun rights, and work to support this powerful amendment to our state constitution.
Vote FOR this amendment on Nov. 6. I plan to do so.
And while you are at it, I urge you to join the LSA — membership is very inexpensive, and the benefits to you as a shooter are huge.
For a complete version of the letter from the Louisiana Shooting Association, go to my blog at: www.theshootist.net.
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