House panel shoots down gun safety legislation

HB1189 to criminalize exposure of guns to young children:

State Rep. Barbara Norton repeatedly insisted Wednesday that her House Bill 1189 would just protect young children — not strip people of their guns.

Critics saw it differently.

Sitting behind the testimony table in the House Criminal Justice Committee’s meeting room, Jay D. Hunt III, treasurer of the Louisiana Shooting Association in Slidell, envisioned what would happen if a Girl Scout knocked on his door to sell cookies while he cleaned an unloaded, broken down shotgun on the kitchen table. Under HB1189, Hunt said he would be committing a crime if the child were to see the gun.

“The goals are laudable, but the bill is poorly written,” Hunt said.

Norton, D-Shreveport, accused opponents to her bill of putting guns first and children second.

“I hope one day in the state of Louisiana that we put children first. I am hoping and praying,” she said.

The committee rejected the legislation, with three voting for it and eight voting against it.

HB1189 would make it a crime to expose a gun to a child 10 years of age or younger. The legislation essentially aims to put guns in locked containers. Violators would face fines ranging from $300 to $500. Possible jailtime would be on the table for second and subsequent violations.

Last year, Norton tried to make it a crime to store firearms outside a locked container. That proposal also stalled.

Not long after the bill failed to advance, a 5-year-old New Orleans girl accidentally shot and killed herself after her mother left her home alone with a .38-caliber revolver.

Norton told the House committee Wednesday that she just wants gun owners to be responsible. “I’m not asking you to give your gun up ... I’m only asking you to protect those children,” she said.

Opponent after opponent appeared before the committee.

Hunt predicted the legislation would have unintended consequences. As written, he said, a father would violate the law if he took off his jacket and his 8-year-old child saw his concealed handgun.

“I didn’t draft the bill. It was drafted here (by legislative staff),” Norton retorted, adding that Hunt and other critics were out of order.

West Baton Rouge Parish resident George Hill said guns protect homeowners from criminals. He said criminals do not announce when they’re going to invade a home.

“We need to have our guns readily available to protect ourselves. If they’re locked up, they’re not readily available,” he said.

Sandra McDade, with the Eagle Forum, said her granddaughter took down a deer at age 10. “That child knows guns,” she said.

McDade said HB1189 would infringe on her right to protect herself. She characterized the legislation as an attempt to hamstring the Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms.

“I keep a gun in my home and in my car simply because I’m 5 foot one and a half. I’m not much of a match for many people,” she said.