La. voters set to strengthen gun laws

7 of 9 ballot issues poised for passage

“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.” Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, on Amendment 2

Louisiana voters appeared headed Tuesday toward overwhelming approval of a proposed constitutional amendment that gives the state the strongest gun laws in the nation, according to early state elections office returns.

With some 70 percent of the vote in, Amendment 2 was passing 893,447 — or 76 percent — to 286,053 — or 24 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.”

Opponents, such as ex-State Police commander and now state Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, argued that the proposal’s passage would lead to constitutional challenges of some 80-plus laws, such as those limiting possession of concealed weapons.

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

All but one appeared to be winning voter approval with 3,164 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 617,481 — or 58 percent — against to 449,509 or 42 percent for.

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 555,397 — or 52 percent — to 514,014 —or 48 percent.

Under the change, all governing entities in a parish would have to support foregoing the property tax revenue.

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 819,517 — or 73 percent — to 298,821 or — 27 percent.

Here’s a brief description of the other amendments and how people were voting as of press time:

  • Amendment 1 designed to protect the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly from being raided to balance the state budget: 837,470 — or 71 percent — to 338,765 or —29 percent.
  • Amendment 3 provides for additional and earlier notice of legislation proposing changes to laws governing state pension systems: 712,431 or — 64 percent — to 398,244 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: 796,238 or —70 percent — to 338,142 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: 654,086 — or 61 percent — to 416,263 or — 39 percent.

  • Amendment 9 would require more notice and details in advance of proposed legislation creating new crime prevention districts: 594,183 — or 56 percent — to 470,262 or 44 percent.