Thursday, August 11

Mark Ballard: Supreme Court gun ruling won’t change much here in Louisiana | Mark Ballard

Guns, abortion and race are the key identifiers of political leanings across the nation.

Tell your stands on those issues and most people can predict whether you vote red or blue. Whether you shop at Walmart or Whole Foods. Whether you were uplifted on Gun Thursday by a US Senate that passed the first gun control measure in nearly three decades or by the US Supreme Court denying a century-old New York gun control law.

The Sportsman’s Paradise has chafed at the strict categories that fit so comfortably elsewhere.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is arguably the best shot and most avid hunter ever to sit in the Governor’s Mansion.

That’s not enough for Louisiana House Majority Leader Blake Miguez. For him, gun rights include the principle that every law-abiding citizen can own as many guns, of any variety, without government interference. By that measure, Edwards has been judged by the gun community’s right-wing and found wanting.

Edwards opposed bills this year — he vetoed one last year — that would have allowed anyone to travel among us with a concealed weapon without training or say so.

Urged by demands for action after a shooter killed 19 in an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, following the killing of 10 at a Buffalo, NY, grocery store with a predominantly Black clientele, 15 US Senate Republicans joined Democratic senators late Thursday night to pass a bipartisan commitment.

The 80-page Bipartisan Safer Communities Act didn’t go as far as Democratic President Joe Biden would have liked but the legislation was described as an important, if incremental, step toward gun control.

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The bill, which was approved by the US House on Friday, has many provisions, including more than $8 billion for mental health services and school security improvements. It closes the “boyfriend loophole” that keeps people convicted of domestic violence offenses from buying firearms; allows for greater background checks; and eases “red flag” restrictions that allows confiscation of guns from dangerous people.

“As we responded to Uvalde, my priorities were to protect law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights, to provide mental health to help prevent future episodes like this but as well as to address issues such as teenage suicide, and to harden schools. This bill does all three,” said US Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Baton Rouge Republican who worked on the mental health component of the legislation.

Cassidy has worked across the aisle before. He also voted to convict President Donald Trump in the February 2021 impeachment trial.

Miguez, a New Iberia Republican, says Cassidy’s Thursday vote further alienates him from conservative Republicans in Louisiana — as the senior senator is eyeing a gubernatorial bid next year.

One of the planks in Cassidy’s past campaign platforms was an unapologetic defense of the Second Amendment. He ran with Trump’s support.

“We already know how I have treated Donald Trump. We hope he’s not now treating the same our citizens’ cherished rights to keep and bear arms,” Miguez said.

Louisiana’s other US senator, Republican John N. Kennedy, voted against the measure. And all five Republican members to the US House from Louisiana voted no on the bill now headed for the president’s desk.

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Hours before the US Senate vote, a 6-3 US Supreme Court struck down a New York law that required concealed carry permit applicants to demonstrate a special need, which ruled out those who want to carry guns for protection. Six states, but not Louisiana, have a similar “proper-cause requirement.”

“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority. “That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. …And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”

President Biden was disappointed.

“Since 1911, the State of New York has required individuals who would like to carry a concealed weapon in public to show a need to do so for the purpose of self-defense,” Biden said in a statement. “In the wake of the horrific attacks in Buffalo and Uvalde, as well as the daily acts of gun violence that do not make national headlines, we must do more as a society — not less — to protect our fellow Americans.”

He has urged state legislatures to enact gun control laws.

Louisiana lawmakers won’t. Miguez points out that most gun rights bills in Louisiana pass with two-thirds majorities, including both Democratic and Republican state legislators.

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