James Gill: Rare guns bill’s passage is proof of its meager reach

Gun Rights

Louisiana, like most American states, has no law requiring guns to be stored safely, but it is here where the odds of getting accidentally plugged by a child are the highest.

Why this should be is a matter of conjecture. Maybe our gun owners are particularly lackadaisical or our kids are unusually mischievous.

Whatever, the Louisiana Legislature has been stirred to action, passing a bill that will, according to press reports, “limit the number of children who inadvertently get their hands on dangerous weapons.”

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The bill, written by state Rep. Mandie Landry of New Orleans, a pinko by our standards, attracted not a single no vote on its way to approval by a Legislature with a distinctly GOP mossback tendency. Gov. John Bel Edwards, Landry’s fellow Democrat but a big fan of the Second Amendment, signed it promptly.

This may seem like a triumph of legislative legerdemain or bipartisan cooperation, but don’t be fooled. Experience tells us that any attempt to reduce the appalling level of gun violence in this country, even if it poses no conceivable threat to Second Amendment rights, will elicit howls of protest from the legion of Americans weaned on NRA propaganda.

If the NRA thought Landry’s bill would make much difference, it would have been voted down. Its provisions are too modest for even the practiced alarmists of the gun lobby to raise the specter of confiscation. In fact, gun rights are sacrosanct here. Besides, they are in the Constitution of the United States, which is notoriously difficult to amend.

If the Legislature really wanted to ensure that fewer loaded guns fall into children’s hands, it would not be hard to do so. Laws requiring lock boxes and gun safes have been passed in other states and would work here if legislators were prepared to risk mandating responsible behavior for the sake of saving lives.

But telling shootists what to do is not Louisiana’s approach; we prefer, as the paper puts it, to “incentivize people to buy gun safety devices.” Under Landry’s bill, gun owners who buy such devices qualify for a tax credit of $500, with a total annual cap of $500,000. The program expires in 2027. If it doesn’t do much good, at least it won’t cost much.

Still, let us applaud its passage because, as Peter Robins-Brown, executive director of Louisiana Progress, notes, “everyone recognizes that better gun safety is necessary.” That includes the Louisiana Legislature; its response was certainly muted, but it usually does all it can to keep the bullets flying. Tom Costanza, of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, also showed up to support Landry’s bill, so the gun nuts are not in total control yet.

Supporters of the Second Amendment are an uncompromising bunch, and it is hard to conceive that a bill making gun safes compulsory, for instance, would get very far in Louisiana. The plaudits heaped on Landry are evidence enough that any meeting of the minds is regarded as little short of a miracle in Baton Rouge.

It is supposed to be axiomatic that constitutional rights come with restrictions, and there is no such thing as a First Amendment absolutist, but any proposal to keep guns out of unsuitable hands or places will be denounced as an assault on freedom. Gun fans don’t come more dedicated than the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and he knew that was nonsense.

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