Louisiana votes a big "Yes" to expanding gun rights

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"You should celebrate that one by shooting a hole through a ballot." — comedian Patton Oswalt, on celebrating your 18th birthday. Louisiana not-so-secretly wished it could shoot a big "Yes" on ballots to strengthen the state's gun laws into a titan-sized and iron-clad monster Right with a God-fearing capital R.

On Election Day, Louisiana voters overwhelmingly backed a measure to strengthen Second Amendment rights in the state. Nearly 75 percent of voters — more than 1.3 million — voted in favor of Act 784, which makes gun ownership a "fundamental right … under strict scrutiny of the court."

"Strict scrutiny" applies the highest standard of judicial review to any law concerning gun ownership. It typically is applied to human rights — owning a gun in Louisiana is now a "fundamental right." Any proposed laws restricting gun ownership (whether on a school campus, government building, in the hands of a convicted felon) could be challenged.

In Orleans Parish, more than 70,000 people voted against the measure, which had fewer than 68,000 supporters — but in neighboring Jefferson Parish, 106,498 people voted in its favor, with only 51,962 voting against.

The bill was the subject of a heated debate in May, when State Sen. Neil Reiser pitched his National Rifle Association-backed measure to Louisiana's House Committee on Criminal Justice, where it ultimately passed 9-5. In May, it passed in the House by a 77-22 vote. Reiser boasted the bill would "give Louisiana the strongest Second Amendment right in the nation."

Reiser's bill had near-unanimous Republican support in the state legislature, while Democrats opposed it — as did Louisiana district attorneys Leon Cannizzaro of Orleans Parish, Charles Ballay of Plaquemines Parish and John DeRosier of Calcasieu Parish, as well as the good government watchdog group Council for a Better Louisiana.

The House suggested the measure go to a public vote — it landed on the November ballot along with a number of amendments.

"I can guarantee you (the amendment) does not stop crime in Orleans Parish," Cannizzaro said at the May committee hearing. Before it passed the house, State Rep. Terry Landry, former Louisiana State Police commander, and other House Democrats repeatedly asked "why now" and why Louisiana needs fewer restrictions on gun ownership. Reiser and others said it would preserve gun rights in future sessions, essentially keeping protection despite any legislative makeup.

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