In announcing a package of proposed new laws dealing with firearms, New Orleans officials Friday called the measures a “small step” in getting a handle on gun violence in the city.
But the package may end up as less than that.
Some of the measures being pushed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and several members of the City Council already are covered by state law, in some cases with more stringent penalties for the same crime. And the exceptions would appear to be prohibited under a state law that restricts local governments’ ability to pass their own gun laws.
However, the officials said the proposals are tailored to meet the hurdles placed in the way of local restrictions on weapons by lawmakers in Baton Rouge.
A representative of the National Rifle Association suggested the proposed measures are designed more to score political points than to change gun laws.
“This appears to be a political stunt. It has very little impact on anything,” said Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the NRA.
Of the five measures included in the package, three mirror laws already on the books banning possession of guns without serial numbers, the possession of firearms by those convicted of domestic abuse battery and carrying of a concealed weapon in a negligent manner.
A fourth would be a significant expansion of firearms-free zones to include parks, but that idea already is being considered by the Legislature at the request of a New Orleans lawmaker.
That proposal would prohibit people from carrying guns within 1,000 feet of parks or facilities run by the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission — an expansion of the existing state ban on carrying guns in or around schools.
To announce the proposals Friday, Landrieu and other officials gathered in Bunny Friend Playground, where 17 people were injured in November after a dispute in the crowded park led to gunfire. Ten people have been booked in connection with that shooting spree.
“Guns harm too many innocent people who are caught in the crossfire. I believe we have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to fight back, to hold back the stream of guns getting into the wrong hands,” Landrieu said.
The bill in the Legislature dealing with guns in parks was introduced by Rep. Jimmy Harris, a New Orleans Democrat who stood beside the mayor as he announced the proposed city ordinance. The bill’s prospects in Baton Rouge are uncertain, but it has passed one House committee.
The city apparently would be unable to move forward by itself on that measure or another proposal that would require gun owners to report when a firearm is stolen. Failure to do so could mean a fine or possible prison time.
A state law that has been on the books since the 1980s prohibits local laws about gun ownership and possession that are more restrictive than the state’s.
Further complicating the matter is an amendment to the state constitution passed by voters in 2012 that requires courts reviewing gun laws to use a standard known as “strict scrutiny,” the most stringent type of legal review. Under that standard, gun restrictions must further a compelling governmental interest and must be narrowly tailored to their objective.
Both those tests likely could cause problems if the ordinance is passed, something that seems likely given the presence of a majority of City Council members at Friday’s event.
Several of the officials on hand seemed to be gearing up for a fight with the NRA or other gun-rights groups, repeatedly arguing that the proposed measures would not affect responsible gun owners.
The officials described the bills as testing the limits of the state restrictions while remaining within them.
Asked later about the provisions that would appear to be blocked by state law, Landrieu spokesman Hayne Rainey said by email, “We believe the ordinance is consistent with state law and constitutional.”
“I would love to go farther” than this proposal, Councilman Jason Williams said. “I think the country needs to go farther in the area of gun responsibility, and the state needs to go farther in terms of gun responsibility.”
And it appears further measures could be forthcoming.
“We’re going to go as far as the Louisiana Constitution allows us to go,” Councilman James Gray said.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.