Gun rights amendment passes easily

Louisiana voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment that gives the state the strongest gun laws in the nation, according to nearly complete state elections office returns.

With just shy of 100 percent of the vote in, Amendment 2 was passing 1,237,596 or 74 percent to 428,906 or 26 percent in a state where gun rights have some of the greatest protections in the U.S.

“This is a truly historic day for Louisiana. We are sending a message to the rest of the nation of our strong support of the right to keep and bear arms,” said state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, who championed the proposition in the Legislature.

Riser said the strong support is due to Louisiana residents seeing the federal government and other states “trending toward anti-gun laws.”

The constitutional change — pushed by the National Rifle Association — would require “strict scrutiny” of any restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. The legal standard would require courts, when asked, to determine whether the state’s gun laws demonstrate “a compelling governmental interest” and are “narrowly defined.” If not, they are to be thrown out as unconstitutional.

Louisiana becomes the first state with the “strict scrutiny” standard.

Opponents argued that the proposal’s passage would make it more difficult to regulate guns for the safety of all and lead to constitutional challenges of some 80-plus laws, such as those limiting possession of concealed weapons.

“I just think this puts us on a real slippery slope,” said state Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, a former State Police commander and vocal opponent of the measure.

The gun issue drew the most attention of the nine proposed constitutional changes on the ballot.

All but one proposal was winning voter approval with 4,124 of 4,267 precincts reporting.

The one lagging in voter support was Amendment 6 that would allow New Iberia to offer a limited tax exemption from municipal property taxes to encourage people to go along with an annexation. The vote was 865,620 or 58 percent against to 638,696 or 42 percent.

Garnering voter favor was the Jindal administration’s push for the expansion of property tax breaks sought in Proposition 8. The administration said the state needed the 10-year tax break to help woo data service and distribution centers, corporate headquarters and other non-manufacturing business. Voters were supporting the proposition 780,965 or 52 percent to 728,345 or 48 percent.

Also passing was Amendment 4 making an undetermined number of new people eligible for an property tax exemption for spouses of disabled veterans.

The vote was 1,159,474 or 73 percent to 420,292 or 27 percent.

Amendment 1 designed to protect the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly from being raided to balance the state budget: 1,181,180 or 71 percent to 482,013 or 29 percent.

Amendment 3 provides for additional and earlier notice of legislation proposing changes to laws governing state pension systems: 1,009,419 or 64 percent to 559,345 or 36 percent.

Amendment 5 would allow judges to order forfeiture of retirement benefits of a public employee convicted of crimes related to their government jobs or order any fines or restitution related to the crimes to be paid by the employee out of those funds: 1,127,454 or 70 percent to 476,522 or 30 percent.

Amendment 7 that changes the makeup of six major state boards whose appointments have been made based on membership from each of seven congressional districts.

Louisiana lost one of those congressional districts because of stagnant population growth.

The proposition alters the membership alignment: 923,165 or 61 percent to 587,582 or 39 percent.

Amendment 9 would require more notice and details in advance of proposed legislation creating new crime prevention districts: 844,729 or 56 percent to 658,532 or 44 percent.