La. Senate panel approves raising age restrictions on buying assault weapons

The bill passed the Senate panel 4 to 3, with one Republican joining the Democrats in the vote (Source: WAFB)
The bill passed the Senate panel 4 to 3, with one Republican joining the Democrats in the vote (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Louisiana Senate panel approved a bill barring those under 21-years-old from buying assault weapons. The current cutoff is 18.

Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, is sponsoring the legislation, saying it's time for lawmakers to show kids across Louisiana they hear their concerns.

"If this bill passes and it saves just one life, it's well worth it. Could be your child, could be mine," Carter told the panel.

Less than two months ago, 17 people died during a school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Police identified the weapon used by the gunman as an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon. Already across the United States, licensed gun retailers cannot sell handguns to those under 21-years-old. The bill, Carter said, would bring assault weapons in line with the same standard.

"I support the Second Amendment with the kind of governance that will protect lives, children, families," Carter said.

In committee, the chief of the New Orleans Police Department and a representative for Louisiana's Catholic Bishops threw their support behind the bill. A high school student and parent also took the stand, telling lawmakers this bill is an important step forward after Parkland. "The time has come for you all to step up and give us a safer community. The time has come," said Mary Wanda, a parent.

Carter said the bill would not boost the age restriction on long rifles and other guns typically used for hunting. Even so, the legislation faced push back from the National Rifle Association (NRA). A representative told lawmakers it violates the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners. "This only serves to punish law abiding citizens and not criminals. As we know, criminals do not follow the law," said Erin Luper with the NRA.

Carter has fired back, saying: "We can make the same argument about illicit drugs. Let's just not make them illegal because people are still going to get cocaine, they're still going to get meth, they're still going to get crack. They're going to still get these drugs, but we still have laws."

After the Parkland shooting, Florida adopted a law that, among other things, barred anyone under 21-years-old from purchasing a firearm. The NRA has since filed a federal lawsuit against the state, saying it violates Constitutional rights.

The Senate panel voted 4 to 3 to send the bill to the Senate floor. A Republican joined Democrats in voting to move the bill forward.

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