Law banning felons from having guns is under review
Tue, 2013-10-15 14:40
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana’s law banning felons from having guns is too loosely drawn to stand up under a newer constitutional amendment protecting the right to bear arms, the attorney for a man who once pleaded guilty to attempted burglary told the Louisiana Supreme Court on Monday.
The amendment that took effect last November defined gun ownership as a fundamental right, meaning laws which restrict that right must be narrowly tailored to fit their purpose.
The 1975 ban covers a “laundry list” of felonies that seem randomly included or left out, public defender Colin Reingold told the Louisiana Supreme Court on Monday.
“That randomness indicates no close fit” with the stated purpose of public safety, he argued.
Reingold represents Glen Draughter, accused in April 2012 of possessing a gun after a felony conviction. He was on probation when he was arrested after a handgun was found in an SUV’s back seat, where he was sitting, and an AK-47 was found in its trunk.
State District Judge Darryl Derbigny agreed with Reingold that the law is now unconstitutional because it applies “without discretion to nearly every felony ... in the Louisiana code.” He said he would not pick those he considered to fit: that is the legislature’s job.
The case went directly to the high court. The justices did not say when they would rule.
Justice Jeanette Knoll asked Reingold, “Do you think voters were concerned about criminals’ rights on probation?”
“I think voters were concerned that all Louisianians had the strongest constitutional protection in the country,” Reingold said.
The amendment is not retroactive and was not meant to affect earlier laws, State Assistant Attorney General Colin Clark argued.
He said transcripts of legislative debate show that the amendment’s sponsor, Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, repeatedly told his colleagues, “This is not going to affect any of the laws on the books.”