New Orleans Tries an End-run around Constitutional Carry

Gun Rights

Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry (R) assumed office on January 8 of this year and wasted no time working to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Louisianans. In February, Gov. Landry opened a special legislative session to address crime in the Pelican State. As part of this effort, Gov. Landry prioritized empowering law-abiding citizens to defend themselves, their families, and communities from criminal violence by signing Constitutional Carry legislation (SB1) into law on March 5.

Now, some New Orleans officials are seeking to undermine Louisianans’ Right-to-Carry through political gamesmanship. According to a report from the Associated Press, New Orleans Police Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick intends to designate a police station in the heart of the French Quarter a “school” to curtail the Right-to-Carry within 1,000 feet of the building and frustrate the ability to carry in the popular downtown area.

Explaining the officials’ dubious strategy, the AP reported that when the legislature enacted Constitutional Carry, “Lawmakers rejected repeated pleas from police and city officials to exempt New Orleans entirely or to carve out the French Quarter and other areas well-known for alcohol-fueled revelry.” According to the outlet,

Their refusal set city officials to work finding ways to deal with a possible proliferation of guns in high-traffic areas, said City Council President Helena Moreno.

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“Ultimately what we realized was, ‘You know what? What we need is a school,’” Moreno said.

Reading that suggests that it is New Orleans officials’ intent to thwart the will of the state legislature by enacting firearm restrictions the legislature repeatedly rejected. This is important, because Louisiana has a strong, and getting stronger, state firearm preemption statute that prohibits political subdivisions from enacting their own carry restrictions. Adding to the brazenness of this conduct is the fact that this year the legislature did address actual illegal carry in the French Quarter by other means.

On June 10, Gov. Landry signed SB507, which reiterated that it is illegal to carry and conceal a handgun with “a blood alcohol reading of .05 percent or greater,” whether that person is carrying pursuant to a concealed handgun permit or exercising their Right-to-Carry without a permit. That .05 BAC level is stricter than the .08 BAC limit for operating a motor vehicle in the state.

SB507 also increased the penalty for a violation of this intoxicated carry prohibition that takes place within the boundaries of the French Quarter Management District. Further, the legislation tweaked Louisiana’s “Negligent carrying of a concealed handgun” statute (R.S. 40:1382) to increase the penalties for negligent carry within the boundaries of the French Quarter Management District. The new language provides that a violation may also result in forfeiture of the individual’s handgun.

As for New Orleans’ dubious “school” prohibition, Louisiana law (R.S. 14:95.6) provides,

A. A “firearm-free zone” is an area inclusive of any school campus and within one thousand feet of any such school campus, and within a school bus, wherein the possession of firearms is prohibited.

          …

(1) “School” means any public or private elementary, secondary, high school, or vocational-technical school, college, or university in this state.

However, the statute does make clear that there are exemptions for the following (R.S. 14:95.2(C)),

(4) The possession of a firearm occurring within one thousand feet of school property and entirely on private property, or entirely within a private residence.

(5) Any constitutionally protected activity which cannot be regulated by the state, such as a firearm contained entirely within a motor vehicle.              …

(9) Any person who has a valid concealed handgun permit issued pursuant to R.S. 40:1379.1 or 1379.3 and who carries a concealed handgun within one thousand feet of any school campus.

Therefore, the New Orleans “firearm-free zone” is aimed at frustrating Louisiana’s Constitutional Carry legislation and those newly enjoying their Right-to-Carry without a permit. 

Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill wasn’t amused by New Orleans’ attempted end-run of state law. Murrill issued the following statement on the matter,

I’m working hard to help keep New Orleans safe, but the City cannot avoid state law by unilaterally designating police stations ‘vo-tech locations.’ You cannot just “designate” yourself a vo-tech school. Among other implications, if it was one (it’s not) the police department would be under the jurisdiction of a board of supervisors for higher education, and it would be subject to other oversight requirements. I have no specific plans yet, but would caution the NOPD that it will likely be subject to civil rights lawsuits under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act if it arrests people pursuant to its made-up designation, which is clearly not legal or effective. I certainly hope the NOPD isn’t violating people’s rights by making up their own rules, which is why the Department is under a federal consent decree,

Given New Orleans’ notorious history of undermining Second Amendment rights, NRA-ILA will continue to monitor the unfolding situation in the Crescent City and explore taking action as necessary.

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