A Louisiana House panel advanced legislation Wednesday that would prohibit the enforcement of any federal restrictions on the possession of semiautomatic firearms in Louisiana.
Approval by the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice came on an 8-6 vote, with opponents warning that the legislation violated the “supremacy” clause of the U.S. Constitution in state-federal affairs.
The same panel also endorsed bills aimed at stopping certain people with legally determined mental health problems from getting gun permits; allowing lifetime concealed weapons permits with certain restrictions; and making it a felony to make public confidential information regarding who has concealed weapons permits.
The committee killed legislation that would make illegal storage of a firearm a crime.
The legislative activity occurred on the same day the U.S. Senate voted down gun control initiatives.
State Rep. Jim Morris, R-Oil City, said his House Bill 5 dealing with federal restrictions on guns is needed because of the overreaction to events such as the deadly Connecticut elementary school shooting that is leading to attempts to infringe on Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. “This is not only a timely bill, but proper bill to bring,” Morris said.
State Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, asked Morris whether he was saying the federal government didn’t have a right to “protect the citizens of this country ... a right to prevent people from buying semiautomatics.”
Morris responded, “I’m just trying to put an obstacle between my right and the federal government.”
“What’s next? We are going to secede from our country?” said state Rep. Terry Landry, D-Lafayette, a former State Police commander. “What do we hope to accomplish by telling the federal government you can’t come in and enforce laws?”
Bill co-sponsor state Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, said the legislation is needed because of “knee-jerk reaction” by those at the federal level to infringe on a fundamental right that predates the Constitution.”
State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, asked how the bill proponents planned to get around the constitutional supremacy clause.
“We are going to worry about that when it comes up. We have the right to do it. This is a pre-emptive measure,” said state Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville.
State Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, sponsored House Bill 21, which would require reporting to a federal database the names of those offenders in court cases who plead based on an insanity defense or lack of mental capacity and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
Burns said there is also a provision in the legislation that would allow for restoration of firearm rights if their mental issues are behind them.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Chris Rager supported the change, saying it “closed the gap” in the background check system.
Other bills clearing the committee and headed to the House floor for debate are:
House Bill 265 by Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, which would provide for a lifetime concealed handgun permit.
Ivey amended the legislation to require permit holders to fulfill an education requirement and testing once every five years.
The lifetime permit would cost $500. Today, renewal is every five years and the permit is $125.
House Bill 8 by Thompson would create a felony for publication, dissemination or otherwise making public information about concealed weapons permit holders. The violator would be exposed to fine of up to $5,000, up to two years in prison, or both.
The information is by law confidential and not subject to public records laws.
Thompson said people with the permits need protection from potential harm from others and theft of their guns if addresses become known.
The Louisiana Press Association and The Advocate’s executive editor, Carl Redman, opposed the legislation.
“To tell me I can’t publish information flies in the face of the First Amendment,” Redman said.
Moreno offered an amendment to make the violation a misdemeanor. Thompson objected, and the change died when six voted for it and seven voted against. The committee voted 8-5 for HB8.