Last Modified: Friday, July 05, 2013 5:52 PM
Baton Rouge juvenile court judge Pamela Taylor Johnson caused quite a stir last month when she struck down several exceptions to Louisiana’s ban on juveniles possessing handguns.
Under the current state law, juveniles (anyone under the age of 17) can’t possess a firearm unless they are:
1. Attending a firearms or hunter’s safety course.
2. Practicing the use of the firearm or target shooting at an established range.
3. Hunting or trapping with a valid license.
4. Traveling to or from any activity described in the preceding three items.
5. On real property with the permission of a parent or legal guardian and with the permission of the owner or lessee of the property.
6. At such person’s residence and who, with the permission of such person’s parent or legal guardian, possesses a handgun.
7. Possessing a handgun with the written permission of such person’s parent or legal guardian; provided that such person carries on his person a copy of such written permission.
Judge Johnson’s ruling addresses exceptions 4, 5, 6 and 7 above. She argues that these four provisions should be “severed” from the first three.
The ruling came in a case brought by Baton Rouge public defender Jack Harrison on behalf of a minor who was arrested for weapons possession.
Harrison contends that the right for juveniles to bear arms, under Louisiana law, is on par with a child’s right to free speech and due process. (Last year, Louisiana voters approved a constitutional amendment that requires “strict scrutiny” of any restrictions on the right to bear arms, giving Louisiana the strongest gun rights laws in the country.)
We believe Judge Johnson raises some valid concerns. Granted, Louisiana is known as a “sportsman’s paradise.” It’s reasonable that a juvenile could be in possession of a firearm at a safety course, or while practicing using the firearm at an established range set up for that purpose. And it’s reasonable that a juvenile possess a gun while legally hunting or trapping with a valid license.
Other than that, we need to use some wisdom and judgement. A juvenile traveling to or from any of the above activities with a gun and without an adult guardian could find himself or herself in some questionable situations.
So too could a juvenile being allowed to carry a gun around just because he or she has written permission from a legal guardian.
It’s good that the people of Louisiana are known as defenders of citizen’s rights. But let’s not get carried away and let minors have guns in situations and places where they may cause a senseless tragedy.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.