Committee rejects ‘red flag’ law to curb gun violence in Louisiana

Gun Rights

Republicans on a Senate panel fended off multiple efforts to soften gun laws in Louisiana, including a “red flag” law to give authorities the power to prevent someone from possessing a firearm if they deemed a risk to themselves or others.  

Senate Bill 256, by Sen. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, would have allowed a judge to issue such an order only if a district attorney or police provided evidence of a threat, and investigations confirmed that risk.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary C rejected the proposed “red flag” law in 5-1 vote. 

Out of concern that gun rights advocates would stand in the way of his proposal, Carter said he was willing to amend his proposal to require the attorney general to sign off on any application from prosecutors or police seeking to prevent someone from purchasing, owning or carrying a concealed firearm.  

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Louisiana State Senator Gary Carter
State Sen. Gary Carter, pictured May 26, 2022. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

Carter noted that a number of Republican-led states, including Florida, have put red flag laws in place to reduce instances of suicide, mass shootings and serious domestic violence. He described his legislation as less restrictive than others in effect.

New Orleans attorney Dan Zelenka with the Louisiana Shooting Association opposed the bill, calling it unnecessary because of existing criminal justice processes and civil mental health commitment laws.

Chris Patron with Firearms Professionals of Louisiana criticized Carter’s legislation for denying due process. Only a district attorney and a judge would be involved in the process to deny someone access to firearms, leaving out the person considered a risk, he said.

Kelby Seanor with the National Rifle Association’s Louisiana chapter also opposed the bill, calling it another attempt to “enforce the Biden administration gun agenda on a national level.”

Carter said he was “very bothered” that the NRA has been a partner in creating red flag laws in other states but has consistently opposed one in Louisiana.       

Ellen Palmentier testified in favor of the proposal. Had a red flag law been in place, she said it would have prevented her brother from committing suicide himself in front of his family in 2018.

“I don’t know if he’d still be here, but at least we would have had another tool in the toolbox to help us keep him from using a method of ending his life that was so immediate and so effective,” Palmentier said. 

The committee also approved a bill that would thwart exceptions to the law approved in February to allow the concealed carrying of a firearm without a permit or training.

Sen. Blake Miguez sitting down. He is wearing a black suit jacket with a multi-colored tie and a red pocket square.
Sen. Blake Miguez in the House while his bill is being presented during the special crime session. (Allison Allsop/ Louisiana Illuminator)

Senate Bill 194, by Sen. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, would negate any parish or local ordinance that would exceed state law dealing with carrying firearms, ammunition and knives. It would also doom another proposed state law New Orleans officials are seeking to create gun-free zones in the French Quarter, Central Business District and Warehouse District. 

City and parish bodies would have six months, as of  Aug. 1, to bring their local laws in line with state statutes. Any local law approved before July 15, 1985, would not be affected. 

The committee voted 5-1, to approve the legislation, with Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, opposed.

The committee also deferred Senate Bill 203, by Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, who wants to create the Office of Violence Prevention under the state health department. The original version of his legislation would have created the Office of Gun Violence Prevention and placed it under Louisiana State Police, leading to scrutiny from gun rights advocates.

Duplessis said he had consulted with Gov. Jeff Landry’s office before submitting his revised bill and was given the impression that while the governor wouldn’t support it, he also would not take a stance against it. 

Even after the Duplessis bill had been amended to remove gun references, the Louisiana Shooting Association and the National Rifle Association still opposed it, arguing that it could be “weaponized” to attack Second Amendment rights. 

Miguez moved to shelve the bill, saying it had far too many references to “gun violence” and that similar agencies in other states have been funded to curb gun owners’ rights.

How much the new sub-agency would cost to create had yet to be determined when Duplessis presented his bill to the Senate committee. He suggested it would be less than the original $750,000 fiscal impact because the health department likely has existing positions to staff the office. Any state spending would require the proposal to go through the Senate Finance Committee before it could advance to a floor vote. 

Other proposals the committee approved include:

Senate Resolution 7, by Barrow, requests the Department of Public Safety and Corrections compile a list of all educational, vocational, substance abuse treatment, faith-based, values development and rehabilitative programs available at its correctional facilities.

Senate Bill 371, by Barrow, would allow judges to include a sentence of surgical castration for anyone found guilty of a sexual offense against a child 13 or younger. Its measures would also apply to women found guilty of such offenses. 

Senate Bill 387, by Sen. Caleb Kleinpeter, R-Port Allen, would make it a crime to tamper with or destroy a crime camera system. It would be punishable with up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000. 

Senate Bill 388, by Sens. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, and Kleinpeter would create a state law to make it a crime for an “alien” to enter Louisiana illegally. 

“If you want to come to America, do it the right way,” Kleinpeter told the committee.

Hodges stressed the sovereign rights of states that are at the forefront of efforts in Texas to preempt the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration. Courts have ruled in multiple cases that state laws cannot preempt federal authority. 

Hodges also shared statistics from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, claiming that approximately 97,000 immigrants live illegally in Louisiana with roughly 34,000 children born in the United States. The organization she cites has been designated a hate group with ties to white supremacy and views that consider some races inferior. 

Gov. Jeff Landry referenced the same number in an executive order

The most recent numbers, based on U.S. Census community surveys, placed the number of illegal immigrants in Louisiana at 70,000 in 2019.

Data from the federal Office of Homeland Security Statistics show illegal border crossings have increased dramatically during the Biden administration, reaching an all-time high of 2.2 million in 2022.

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