Society

Louisiana Supreme Court to Rule on Felons with Guns

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The 2012 Election was noteworthy for a number of reasons, but for the residents of Louisiana it saw a slew of new constitutional amendments passed by voter referendum. One amendment stripped public officials convicted of felonies of their pensions. However, an amendment requiring “strict scrutiny” of gun laws, could allow those felonious officials to keep their right to bear arms

The amendment switches the burden of proof, with respect to the constitutionality of gun laws, to the state from citizens. Now, it is up to the state to prove that the laws restricting gun rights, such as the right to regulate concealed-carry permits, are constitutional, instead of the other way around. According to The Times-Picayune, “regulations must be narrowly tailored to fit a public purpose and it would be up to the government to prove that regulations were constitutional, rather than requiring opponents of a measure to prove that the law violates the constitution.”

Since the amendment passed, many felons who have since been convicted of possessing a firearm (illegal under a law passed in 1975), are seeking to have those convictions overturned because gun ownership is now a “fundamental” right.

The state argues that restricting firearms from convicted felons is in the best interest of public safety. So far, a number of convictions have been overturned, even in the case of violent offenders like Chris Coleman who killed one drug dealer and wounded another, although his conviction for these crimes still stands.  

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Although for a juvenile defendant, identified only as “J.M.,” his conviction of possessing a firearm was upheld by a Juvenile Court judge, leading his defense attorneys to challenge that ruling as well.

Still, those against this worry that given the high recidivism rate of felons, that arming them could lead to more gun violence in the state.