- Associated Press - Friday, April 8, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Lawmakers are seeking to shape Louisiana’s gun laws with more than 40 firearm-related changes proposed this session.

But while proposals, including several measures attempting to limit released convicts’ access to guns, have come from lawmakers in both parties and within each chamber, disagreements lie in how to best curb the state’s high recidivism and crime rates while respecting constitutional rights.

Lawmakers have said a number of the proposals have come in light of recent tragedies, including a Lafayette movie theater shooting that left three dead and a New Orleans playground shooting that injured more than a dozen people.

The proposals have largely originated in the House, and the criminal justice committee must advance those bills if they are to move for a full debate. The panel has heard some proposals and is expected to weigh-in on a number of other measures next week.

LOOSENING CONCEALED CARRY LAWS



Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge, has proposed a constitutional amendment to eliminate the current concealed carry permit requirement for law-abiding citizens. It would require voter approval.

“I try to legislate rationally. I’m not looking to expand gun rights, but restore gun rights for law-abiding citizens,” Ivey said.

Current Louisiana law allows residents over 21 years old to open carry without a permit, and Ivey’s proposal would extend that to concealed weapons. The law would put Louisiana in step with Arkansas, Wyoming, Vermont, Arizona, Alaska and Kansas.

A similar proposal is being offered by Sen. Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier City. Ivey tried to push the idea in 2014, but failed to gain support.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, proposes extending concealed carry without a permit for 90 days to domestic abuse victims with protective orders.

While proposals from state Reps. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, and James Armes, D- Leesville, would still require concealed carry permits for veterans, it would reduce their costs.

PURCHASES AND TRANSFERS

Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, wants to allow people with expunged records or gubernatorial pardons to be able to buy, sell and own a firearm.

Rep. John Bagneris, D-New Orleans, wants to legislate a 10-day waiting period before a person can receive the weapon once it has been purchased.

Ivey and Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, filed similar bills to tighten reporting requirements to the Louisiana Supreme Court with information on those forbidden from ever purchasing a gun. Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, is proposing to outline how people can transfer guns when barred from having them.

TOUGHER PUNISHMENT

Ivey said he supports an increase in gun possession penalties for criminal offenders and has proposals increasing fines and incarceration times for gun crimes. He also has a measure that seeks to exclude crimes of violence from the 10-year cleansing period that allows former offenders to own guns.

A bill by Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, awaiting a Senate floor vote would limit judges’ discretion to reduce sentencing for violent crimes committed with a firearm, requiring tougher sentences for certain crimes.

GUNS IN PUBLIC

Some lawmakers have proposed more broadly regulating gun carrying.

Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, wants to require metal detectors at movie theaters to detect concealed weapons.

She’s also supported a proposal from Rep. Jimmy Harris, R-New Orleans, to bar guns from public parks and playgrounds. The measure awaits debate on the House floor - but only after lawmakers added a provision to exclude people with concealed carry permits.

“I worry greatly about restricting the rights of everyone because of issues that happen in some of our metropolitan areas,” said Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, during discussion on the measure.

Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace, said he supports gun restrictions under certain circumstances, like in the Louisiana Superdome during post-Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

“If there are no guns on the premises, no one will be shot on the premises,” Gaines said.

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