Since 1985, New Orleans has had almost no control of its own gun laws. In recent years local elected officials and advocates have tried a number of criminal justice reform measures to address the ongoing crisis of violence in the city. However, state preemption dictates no local government may pass legislation that is "stricter" than the state with respect to firearms. This was largely passed as a convenience for gun owners but means New Orleans is at the mercy of the state Legislature with respect to gun legislation.
When it comes to gun violence, local laws serve the important purpose of addressing the unique issues and dangers facing individual communities. When a higher level of government takes regulatory power from a lower level, a dangerous gap builds between the people passing laws and those living with them every day. In the case of gun regulation, that gap is the difference between life and death.
At the urging of the local gun lobby, Louisiana has removed authority from local governments to regulate guns and ammunition, thereby creating a dangerous exception to the traditional rule of local authority. This is where we are in New Orleans. This law overrides common-sense by limiting New Orleans, which is wracked with gun violence, to abide by the identical laws that apply in rural Louisiana areas that do not face the same challenges.
For years, New Orleans has struggled with an epidemic of gun violence. New Orleans officials want to move forward with sorely needed solutions to gun violence but Louisiana state law bars its municipalities from enacting smart legislation for the people by the people. The hands of the New Orleans City Council and its mayor are tied.
State Sen. Wesley Bishop has submitted a bill, SB 185, that creates a narrow exemption for New Orleans that would allow local officials to address gun violence in five specific ways that are narrowly tailored to have the greatest gun violence prevention impact with minimal impact on law-abiding gun owners.
• Prevent the trafficking of firearms by requiring the reporting of lost and stolen firearms;
• Regulate the open and visible carrying of firearms at large public events;
• Prohibit firearms from being carried into or around places where alcohol is served;
• Prohibit firearms from being carried in recreation centers or other public buildings;
• Prevent the unsafe access of firearms by minor children.
SB 185 makes sense for New Orleans. It is a move — not drastic or extreme — in the right direction. We encourage the members of the Louisiana Senate Judiciary B to vote YES on SB 185 on Tuesday.
members, New Orleans City Council