"Passing this will give Louisiana the strongest Second Amendment right in the nation," said Neil Riser, SB 303 sponsor and District 32 senator.
Supported by the National Rifle Association and Gov. Bobby Jindal, the bill would amend the state constitution to eliminate language that explicitly allows the restriction of carrying concealed weapons and add language that requires any restrictions on weapons be "subject to strict scrutiny."
It has received final passage from the Senate (31-6) and passed through House committees on Administration of Criminal Justice (9-5) and Civil Law and Procedure (12-0).
Some members of the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice questioned the need for the amendment.
"Louisiana has some of the most liberal gun laws in the country," said Terry Landry, District 96 Representative and former state police superintendent. "How has the expansion of gun laws made our communities any safer?"
Riser said his proposal would ensure Louisiana keeps strong protections for gun owners and would make it more difficult for future lawmakers, who might seek to increase the limits on weapons, to enact such constraints.
"My biggest concern is the future," Riser said.
Opponents included several district attorneys from around the state and higher education leaders who argued it could open to court challenge the dozens of existing prohibitions on guns, such as those at schools, on college campuses, in churches and in the Louisiana Capitol.
They also said it could leave lawmakers unable to enact gun-free zones.
Currently, Article 1 Section 11 of the state constitution reads, "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."
SB 303 would change it to read, "The right of each citizen to acquire, keep and bear, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms for defense of life and liberty, and for all other legitimate purposes is fundamental and shall not be denied or infringed, and any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny."
It will go before the full House for debate and final vote and, as a constitutional amendment, must receive approval from voters before taking effect.
The language on the proposition ballot would read, "Do you support an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Louisiana to protect as fundamental the right of individuals to keep and bear arms?"
It is unclear how the amendment might affect existing weapons laws.
Currently, citizens who need to carry a concealed weapon are required to pass a course and submit an application to state police for approval.
Visit www.lsp.org/handguns.html for more information.
Golden Eagle Training and Safety will hold a Carrying Concealed Handgun Course in Springhill on Saturday, May 26, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The class is $50 and will have classroom and range sessions.
Pre-registration by May 23 is required. Call 318-268-5052 or 318-927-5026, or visit www.DefensiveTraining.us for a registration form.