State GOP lawmakers seeking to fight new limits on guns

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Republican state

lawmakers are launching a counteroffensive to federal efforts to put new

limits on guns,

setting up a statewide opposition campaign and proposing to ban

enforcement of any new restrictions on semi-automatic firearms.

Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, recently announced an effort called "Defend Louisiana" that he said is designed to defend

gun ownership rights in Louisiana.

"If we don't stand strong to defend our Second Amendment rights, they're going to be eroded away slowly, sort of like a tide

that creeps in," Thompson said. "We don't need to whittle away at law-abiding citizens' rights."

The effort is aimed at President Barack Obama's push to ban military-style assault weapons, require background checks on all

firearms purchases and limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds after the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

Louisiana has embarked on efforts to review school safety procedures, but Thompson and other lawmakers, nearly all Republicans,

say the response shouldn't include gun restrictions.

Five Republican lawmakers are seeking to

pass state legislation that would declare any federal law or regulation

that limits

ownership or possession of a semi-automatic weapon or ammunition

or requires registration of those items to be "unenforceable

within the borders of the state of Louisiana."

Rep. Helena Moreno, a Democrat and vice chair of the House criminal justice committee, questioned the worth of such a statement

from the Legislature.

"I'm pretty certain that we can't just pick and choose which federal laws we can follow and which we can't," she said.

Similar bills are being talked about in other states. Thompson acknowledged if the measure passed, it likely would end up

in court.

But, he said, "That's a debate worth having and litigation worth pursuing."

The federal law nullification measure and Thompson's proposal to create criminal penalties for anyone who publishes the names

of concealed carry permit holders will be considered in the legislative session that begins in April.

They are expected to be among several proposals in the debate about gun control.

Moreno, D-New Orleans, said she doesn't

expect the criminal justice committee to deal with much besides gun

issues when the

Legislature returns for its regular session. But she doesn't

expect any bills that would limit gun ownership or specific types

of weapons to win passage in the Legislature, which has rejected

similar ideas repeatedly over the years.

Louisiana is a gun-friendly state, nicknamed

the "Sportsman's Paradise" at least in part for the popularity of

hunting among

generations of families. Nearly three-quarters of the state's

voters recently agreed to a tougher constitutional hurdle for

restricting weapons, removing a provision that gave lawmakers

explicit authority to limit concealed handguns.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is a gun owner and supported the recent constitutional change.

"The governor believes it is unwise and

unconstitutional to further restrict law-abiding citizens' access to

firearms, and

he would support reasonable efforts to stop that from happening.

He does support efforts to ensure individuals with serious

mental health issues do not have access to firearms," spokesman

Sean Lansing said in a statement.

Louisiana ranks among the top in the nation

for gun ownership, with about 46 percent of households armed, according

to data

from the Violence Policy Center, a gun control group in

Washington. The organization says Louisiana also has one of the highest

rates of gun deaths, with 19 gun deaths for every 100,000 people,

suggesting the two figures are tied.

As talk began about potential changes to federal gun laws after the Connecticut school shooting, requests for concealed handgun

permits in Louisiana spiked, according to the Louisiana State Police.

Capt. Doug Cain, a state police spokesman, said the agency averaged 875 concealed carry applications each month from January

to October of 2012. In December and January, applications have risen to more than 2,000 each month.