By Rowan Kavner | LSU Student
Louisiana is close to possessing the strongest pro-gun legislation in the nation.
Sen. Neil Riser's Senate Bill 303 is a constitutional amendment to the current Louisiana gun laws, stating that any denial, infringement or restrictions on one's right to acquire or carry and use arms for defense be subject to strict scrutiny.
The ambiguity of the bill, and the fact that it's an amendment and not an entirely new legislation, has many trying to interpret its specific ramifications.
"The difficulty with the bill is it is not directly a gun bill in the sense you can carry it here or you can't carry it there," said Jason Droddy, LSU director of external affairs.
"That's what gun bills have been in the past. This is an amendment that would clarify that Louisiana citizens or people within our borders would have the right to keep and bear arms, and if there is any restriction to that, it must pass a very high legal level of scrutiny."
The bill passed with a 31 to 6 vote in the Senate in April, and will be up for floor debate in the House later this month.
Droddy said since the Senate passed it with such a large majority, he expects at least half of the House to do the same.
Since it is a constitutional amendment it will require a two-thirds majority before it goes before Louisiana voters in the fall. .
Because the bill's wording makes restrictions on carrying guns more unclear and more difficult, there is a concern at LSU and other schools that guns will be allowed on campus.
"That's where the confusion sets in," Droddy said. "The bill does not say that you will be able to carry a gun on the LSU campus. What it sets it up for is legal challenges to alter current prohibitions. So if the constitutional amendment was adopted, until somebody challenged college campus law, it would stand."
Droddy said he expects groups to challenge any restriction laws that would happen if the bill is approved.
LSU Police Department spokesperson Capt. Cory Lalonde said it's difficult to predict how to handle the bill until final passage.
"We've heard a lot of different things at this point," Lalonde said. "It's really hard to nail down exactly what it would be. Our department has been talking to other university police departments, specifically University of Louisiana-Lafayette, our chief's been talking to their chief."
He said LSU police has also been in contact with the district attorney's office and university legislative lobbyists to get a better understanding of how the bill would affect LSU. Regardless, Lalonde said, LSUPD is against the passage of the bill.
"There's some worry. We're obviously not for it. I'm not talking about the amendment in general, but anything that would allow guns on campus or doing away with firearm free zones on campus, we're not for that. We're not in support of it. We haven't been in support of it before with the previous bills that specifically tried to allow guns on campus."
Lalonde notes the biggest worry is the measure's ambiguity which, he believes, would open the door for citizens to question gun laws throughout the state, including the firearm free zones, such as school campuses and police stations.
He said the new bill would not allow guns everywhere, but the heavier burden to justify the reasons for each law makes it difficult to predict what would happen if someone challenges existing gun laws.
"It's a little difficult to anticipate exactly what we would have to do," Lalonde said. "We're keeping an eye on it, we're monitoring it, we're voicing our concerns in reference to it, and we've just got to see where the chips are going to fall and what's going to happen with it in the end."