With the potential for more funding cuts to higher education looming in the wake of a $1.9 billion state budget shortfall, the structural problems in our state constitution may once again surface. That’s because, in times like these, the constitution protects 75 percent of the budget from cuts, leaving areas like healthcare and education first in line to the slaughter.
Given all of this, you might expect conscientious legislators, still recovering from last year’s budget debacle, to propose a constitutional amendment to fix some of these issues. Well, there is a constitutional amendment that has been pre-filed for this year’s legislative session, but it doesn’t seek to protect LSU, Southern University, or Baton Rouge General Hospital.
The most important constitutional amendment Representative Barry Ivey could conceive of, evidently, is yet another bill to make it easier to buy a gun!
That’s right. Rep. Ivey, through House Bill 4, wants Louisiana, which ranks highest in the nation for per capita homicide every year, to have even looser restrictions on gun purchases.
For comparative purposes, let’s look at the text of this proposed amendment just to bask in the absurdity. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution says, in a nutshell, “the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The current text of the Louisiana State Constitution already goes further than that, saying that the right to keep and bear arms is “fundamental and shall not be infringed.”
The fact that Louisianians regard this right as “fundamental” is obvious by the overwhelming lack of any meaningful restriction in our state gun laws. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, scoring all 50 states on a point system for gun control, gave Louisiana a 12 out of 100, and that was graded on a curve! In Louisiana, you can already open carry without as much as a permit. If your gun gets lost or stolen in Louisiana, you don’t even have to report it to the police!
Suffice it to say, Louisiana does not have onerous restrictions on guns, by any stretch of the imagination. But Rep. Ivey wants to take it further and engrain in our state constitution not only that our right to own a gun is “fundamental,” but that it also “includes the right to possess a concealed handgun without any form of permit or license” (emphasis added).
This would effectively remove one of the only restrictions on gun ownership in the state: the permit requirement for concealed carry. It would make Louisiana only the sixth state in the U.S. to not require any sort of license to carry a hidden gun.
And who knows how this law could be interpreted if it became part of the constitution? Would we have to get rid of mental health reporting requirements? Would you be able to stroll through LSU with a gun in your backpack? We just don’t know, and that’s part of what makes this so frightening.
Luckily, in order to actually make onto the constitution, it would have to pass through popular vote. But I wouldn’t want to take my chances on the ballot, given the ability of the NRA to mobilize and misinform people on a large scale.
This same bill already failed in 2014. It is even more important now that it never makes it out of committee, so our legislators can focus on the real constitutional issues affecting our state.