Gun rights rally on State Capitol steps

About two dozen Louisiana politicians Monday stood on the steps of the State Capitol pledging to guard against attacks on the Second Amendment and to strengthen gun rights in the state.

“We think it’s time to take a strong stand,” said state Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, who organized the “Defend Louisiana” rally on the opening day of the 2013 legislative session.

“We are not going to allow any more incremental attacks on the Second Amendment,” Thompson said.

The rally, which had been advertised for more than a week, came hours after President Barack Obama criticized several Republican congressmen for threatening to use “political stunts” to block a vote on gun control legislation before the Congress. Obama addressed a Connecticut crowd at the University of Hartford, about 50 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of a mass shooting in December.

The Louisiana Legislature has about a dozen bills on its agenda that address firearms in the state. Two of the measures would add some restrictions to gun ownership. In many of the other bills, Louisiana legislators seek to expand the right to keep and bear arms in the state.

Among the bills are those that would allow a lifetime concealed weapons permit; stop enforcement of federal restrictions on ownership or possession of semiautomatic weapons; and ban the release of names of those with concealed handgun permits.

On the State Capitol steps, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, as well as members of the state House and state Senate stood behind Thompson.

The late-afternoon rally attracted fewer than 100 people but those who were present showed their support with applause and signs held high.

Among the crowd, a middle-aged man sported a short-sleeved American flag shirt; one woman held a handwritten “Protect Our Constitution” sign; and another man held up a printed “Defend Liberty 2nd Amendment” poster.

“This is about personal freedom,” Cassidy said. “This right predates our constitution, but it is enshrined in our constitution.”

Washington, D.C., wants to infringe on people’s rights, Cassidy said, “with a boot on the neck of the Second Amendment” and “requiring people to buy things they don’t need to buy,” an apparent reference to the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance mandate.

Cassidy said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, whom he plans to challenge in 2014, is part of that Washington crowd, and at the same time, he called her “a very nice woman.”

Dardenne put the fight in terms of “protecting the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution,” while Strain called the Second Amendment “a protection to the tyranny in government” by assuring individual rights.

State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, who pushed a “strict scrutiny” standard to test the constitutionality of Louisiana gun laws, told the small rally crowd that there is reason to be on guard.

“There are those that don’t believe in our constitutional rights,” he said.

“Our liberties are under siege,” said state Sen. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas. “Our rights are under attack. Today, we must stand against those that would destroy our American way of life.”