The decisions in 2008 and 2010 of the U.S. Supreme Court on gun rights, broadening the traditional interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, are knocking over some local restrictions on firearms, including an overly broad East Baton Rouge ordinance.
The city-parish law prohibited residents from keeping firearms in their parked cars while they’re inside establishments that sell alcohol.
The ordinance was struck down by U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson.
Ernest Taylor challenged the ordinance in federal court after he was pulled over in October 2012 while leaving a lounge; he had not turned on the headlights of the car. Taylor was arrested after three rifles were found in his vehicle.
Jackson said the ordinance unlawfully infringes on the constitutional right of Taylor and other citizens to keep and bear firearms.
That is in line with the high court’s decisions, the Heller and McDonald cases, that rolled back some government restrictions on guns. But the facts of the Taylor case showed how broad the ordinance is.
“Thus, any law-abiding citizen who exercises his or her right to keep or bear arms within the confines of his or her personal vehicle will violate (ordinance) 13:95.3 anytime he or she, for example, stops to refuel a vehicle at a service station that sells alcohol, or stops to purchase groceries at a grocery store that sells alcohol,” the judge wrote.
“Similarly, the ordinance prohibits law-abiding citizens from purchasing and possessing firearms at any establishment that sells alcohol, thereby rendering the sale of firearms at establishments like Wal-Mart a criminal act,” he said.
We do not see any way that Jackson could have ruled otherwise, given the law at the federal level and the facts in this local case, but the ruling points out the difficulties across the nation as well-intended gun restrictions collide with the broad interpretation of the Second Amendment.
“I just don’t see any way that it’s going to be a positive,” said Marc Fraioli, owner of Fred’s Bar in Tigerland, near the LSU campus. “It’s just going to increase bad things happening.”
That is almost certainly true. Many local restrictions on gun ownership are not the result of an insidious conspiracy, as some would have it, but arise when business owners or other well-intentioned citizens make the valid point that guns and booze don’t mix.
In Fraioli’s words, bad things will happen.
Local governments and law enforcement across Louisiana ought to look at this ruling and assess the ordinances that may have been in place for many years. After all, the Heller case revised constitutional standards in gun laws that had been in place for some 70 years.
But even if long-standing on the local law books, the Taylor case shows that it’s a new era in federal courts, and broad firearms restrictions are likely to be in trouble if a defendant takes them to court.