Dangerous Constitutional Amendment Allows Convicted Felons to Challenge Common Sense Gun Laws


Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com The Times-Picayune

In early July, the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously upheld a state law prohibiting convicted felons from possessing firearms. Despite this positive outcome, the case actually illustrates the very real dangers of an alarming trend that has recently emerged in certain parts of the country.

Challenges to the law arose after a dangerous and imprudent amendment was made to Louisiana’s constitution in 2012, requiring that all challenged state gun laws be subject to “strict scrutiny” review— the highest level of judicial review that exists. The Louisiana Constitution, like many other state constitutions, recognizes a right to keep and bear arms. However, in 2012, voters approved an NRA-supported amendment—the first of its kind approved in the U.S.—defining the right as “fundamental” and requiring courts to apply “strict scrutiny” when reviewing firearm regulations.

Because of this new “strict scrutiny” requirement, three convicted felons were able to challenge their convictions under a Louisiana statute which generally bars felons from possessing a firearm for ten years after the completion of their sentence. The challengers to the law in this case had been convicted of a variety of crimes including second degree battery, narcotics trafficking, and unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.

The question was whether Louisiana may prohibit convicted felons from possessing firearms after serving their sentences. The Louisiana Supreme Court found “beyond question” that this law serves to protect public safety by keeping firearms out of the hands of those who are more likely to misuse them. In the words of the court, the case demonstrated that “convicted felons are not only at risk to re-offend, but are at risk to re-offend using firearms.” In upholding the law, the court concluded that “common sense and the public safety allow no other result.”

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Louisiana’s Latest Failure: Amendment to State Constitution May Make It Easier to Challenge Gun Laws

Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com The Times-Picayune

On Election Day, the voters of Louisiana approved a ballot initiative that may make it easier for criminals to challenge the state’s gun laws in court. That NRA-sponsored initiative – the first of its kind in the nation – amended the state constitution’s right to bear arms provision to force courts considering state constitutional challenges to gun laws to apply “strict scrutiny,” the highest judicial standard.

The new provision is outrageous because it will require courts to review laws under a certain standard, rather than letting them decide for themselves what standard to use, as they traditionally have done. Strict scrutiny is often described as “strict in theory, fatal in fact,” because the vast majority of laws subject to strict scrutiny are found to be unconstitutional. Even the Supreme Court has not advocated for the use of strict scrutiny in cases evaluating laws under the Second Amendment. Requiring such a high standard could jeopardize even modest laws to reduce gun violence in Louisiana. This is especially alarming in a state that, in 2010, had the second highest number of firearm deaths per capita.

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Extremism in Action: Legislation Enacted in Louisiana Proposing Radical Amendment to State Constitution

Despite having more per capita gun deaths than any other state in 2009, Louisiana lawmakers have proposed amending the state constitution to provide the most extreme state right to bear arms provision in the country. If voters approve the proposed amendment in November, the state constitution will require any regulation of firearms to meet the highest possible judicial standard—strict scrutiny.   The United States Supreme Court does not require this standard, nor do any of the 44 states that provide a right to bear arms.

Want to see more Extremism in Action? You can find them here.

Louisiana On Its Way to Passing Strongest Pro-Gun Law in U.S.

Louisiana On Its Way to Passing Strongest Pro-Gun Law in U.S.
Ashley Portero, International Business Times, May 25, 2012

Louisiana recently passed legislation that would amend the state constitution to remove language specifically allowing the state to regulate concealed weapons, and provide that the right to keep and bear arms is “fundamental and shall not be infringed.”  The proposed amendment – which now must be adopted by the voters of Louisiana – also takes the highly unique step of enshrining in the state constitution a higher standard of proof for determining the constitutionality of any law that may restrict Louisiana residents’ ability to own and carry guns.