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House committee up in arms over gun-related bills

Last Modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 12:20 AM

By John Guidroz / American Press

BATON ROUGE — A House committee spent several hours Wednesday debating different gun-related measures, including one approved bill that would prevent the enforcement of federal restrictions on owning or carrying semiautomatic firearms.

The House Criminal Justice Committee voted 9-6 in favor of House Bill 5, by Rep. James Morris, R-Oil City.

Morris said the measure addresses “serious overreaching proposals of the federal government.” He said gun control does not work and that the real problem is guns getting in the hands of “evil people” and people with mental health issues.

“I’m just trying to protect my family,” Morris said. “And if it means me telling someone in Washington that I have that right, that’s what I’ll do. And I don’t want to relinquish that right.”

The measure faced stiff opposition from committee members like Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia.

Landry, a gun owner and retired police officer, said he did not understand how the state could restrict the federal government from enforcing a law.

“We can’t cherry-pick things we can stand for,” he said.

Another approved measure would make it a felony to release information on concealed carry permits or permit applications.

The committee voted 8-5 in favor of H.B. 8, by Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City.

Under the measure, an individual could be fined $5,000, spend up to two years in jail, or both. Employees with the Department of Public Safety and Corrections or law enforcement agencies could be fined $500, face six months in jail, or both, except for court-ordered releases.

“This is already confidential information that shouldn’t be published,” Thompson said.

Carl Redman, executive director of The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge, said the bill strips reporters’ First Amendment rights.

“Are you going to tell me I can’t publish salaries of public officials or travel records of my mayor?” he said. “What you’re talking about is criminalizing my ability to print truthful information.”

Another of Thompson’s bills had more support in the committee. The committee voted 11-2, approving H.B. 98, which allows the concealed carry permits of sheriffs from neighboring parishes to be valid in both parishes. The measure also includes the same felony penalties for releasing information on those permits listed in H.B. 8.

Thompson said the bill would help people with concealed carry permits who live in one parish and work in another.

The committee voted 10-4 in favor of H.B. 265, by Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge. It allows someone with a concealed carry permit to get a lifetime permit. Ivey said applicants would pay a $500 fee for a lifetime permit, or $250 for applicants over 65.

“It’s a reduction of paperwork,” Ivey said of the measure.

A person’s concealed carry permit would be suspended if he or she becomes a resident of another state. The permit can be reinstated if the person moves back to Louisiana and passes a background check.

The committee did reject a measure that would make it illegal for a person to keep or store a gun unless it is in a locked container or has a trigger lock or other safety device. H.B. 4, by Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, failed with a 7-6 vote.

“All we’re asking you to do is be more responsible with the gun,” Norton told the committee.

The approved measures head to the House floor for consideration.

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