Minden Press-Herald

Thursday
Oct 02nd

Proposed Amendment 2 affects right to bear arms

(Editor's Note: Between now and the November 6 election, the Press-Herald will examine each of the nine proposed Constitutional Amendments that will appear on the ballot.)

Proposed Amendment 2 on the November 6 ballot would change language in the state constitution, reportedly providing the strongest protection of the right to bear arms in the country.

"Under the current law, the interpretation could be such that you could literally ban firearms, which are protected under the Second Amendment to the Constitution," said State senator Robert Adley, who is one co-author of the bill. "As I understand it was a technical issue that arose out of a court case, that needed to be corrected."

The current state constitution is considered by many to be one of the least restrictive in the country, according to Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana's (PAR) guide to the 2012 amendments.

National Rifle Association, in a statement in support of the amendment, expressed concern the phrase "...but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to prohibit the carrying of weapons concealed on the person..." in the current constitution could be used to broadly restrict the right to bear arms.

"This wording is so faulty that it leaves open the possibility of regulation by the state of carrying concealed even in one's own home," according to the NRA statement.

If passed, the amendment would eliminate the explicit ability of state legislature to restrict concealed weapons any differently than openly-carried weapons.

Rep. Gene Reynolds voted for the bill to place the amendment on the November 6 ballot and is in support of it as well.

"When we passed that, we felt like it really strengthened gun rights rather than weakened them in any way," he said. "How you do that is '...this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.' That's the key, right there."

"Strict scrutiny" is a specific legal term delineating what tests a law must pass to be considered valid. It is the most stringent test a law must pass to be judged constitutional, according to PAR.

"When the judicial system reviews laws, judges use one of three levels of review as the framework for determining whether a law is valid or invalid," according to PAR's guide. "The three levels of review are rational basis, intermediate scrutiny and strict scrutiny."

Typically, the level of scrutiny is left up to the court, according to PAR. In most cases the court will test a law's validity using rational basis – if the law is shown to rationally relate to a legitimate government interest, it will be ruled valid.

However, when a law would affect what is considered a fundamental right, strict scrutiny is used. This level of review requires the law to pass three tests of validity.

First, the law must represent a "compelling interest." According to PAR, most laws restricting firearms use public safety as their compelling interest.

Second, the law must be "narrowly tailored" to achieve the compelling interest. According to PAR, this prevents the law from being overly broad.

Third, the law must be the "least restrictive" means of achieving the compelling interest. According to PAR, if a law under strict scrutiny is found to have a less restrictive means of accomplishing its compelling interest, then the law will be struck down.

Opponents of the amendment express concern the removal of the explicit authority of the legislature to restrict concealed weapons will cause existing laws to be challenged and perhaps overturned, according to PAR.

Louisiana is an "open carry" state, which means most citizens can carry a weapon openly in public except in certain locations like schools, bars, governmental buildings, etc. Concealed weapons require permits, background checks, gun safety training, fingerprinting, etc.

According to PAR, opponents say current laws providing additional penalties related to firearms used in the commission of crimes could be challenged and eliminated, reducing law enforcement's ability to keep violent criminals behind bars.

Finally, opponents believe the simple act of a majority voting for the amendment could send a message about current concealed carry law.

"A court might conclude that there is some significance to the fact that the voters intentionally removed this line and take that into consideration when evaluating whether a law meets the strict scrutiny test," according to PAR's guide.

A vote for proposed Amendment 2 would remove explicit authority for the state legislature to create laws restricting carrying concealed weapons. It would also subject all laws restricting the right to bear arms to "strict scrutiny," the highest level of judicial review.

A vote against proposed amendment two would retain existing constitutional language considered among the least restrictive in the country. It would also preserve explicit legislative authority to pass laws restricting carrying concealed weapons.

 

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