Article I, § 11 of the Louisiana State Constitution currently provides: “The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed.  Any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” This was the result of a constitutional amendment, enacted via ballot measure in 2012. Prior to this amendment, Article I, § 11 had read: “The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged, but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to prohibit the carrying of weapons concealed on the person.”

In a 1977 case, State v. Amos, the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected a challenge based on the original version of Article I, § 11 to a state statute that prohibited individuals convicted of certain felonies from carrying firearms.1 The court held that the right to keep and bear arms is not absolute, and that the state may use its police power to regulate any of the rights present in the Louisiana Constitution “in order to protect the public health, safety, morals or general welfare so long as that regulation is a reasonable one.”2

In State v. Blanchard, a 2001 case, the court reaffirmed its pronouncements in Amos when holding that a state statute providing enhanced penalties for the constructive possession of a firearm while committing a crime of violence, or while possessing or selling drugs, was a reasonable regulation under the Louisiana Constitution.3 The court found “a rational relationship between the statute’s scope, i.e., making it a felony for a person to possess a firearm in connection with a drug offense, even a misdemeanor drug offense, and its legitimate state purpose of preventing drug-related violence.”4

Following the 2012 amendment to Louisiana’s constitutional right to bear arms provision, which required the application of strict scrutiny, state courts faced a wave of litigation aimed at statutes regulating firearm possession by convicted felons.  Despite the removal of an explicit license to regulate concealed weapons, and the imposition of the highest standard of review, several statutes regulating firearm possession have thus far survived review in the Louisiana courts.

In 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court held, in State v. Draughter, that the state’s felon-in-possession statute, as applied to a convicted felon under state supervision, survived strict scrutiny.5  The court ruled that “[f]or these persons still under state supervision, we easily find there to be a compelling state interest for the state’s limited infringement of even fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to possess a firearm.”6 The court found that the statute both served a compelling state interest and was narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.7

Similarly, in State v. Eberhardt, a 2014 decision, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the state felon-in-possession statute both facially and as applied to a defendant previously convicted of unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.8 As required by the 2012 constitutional amendment, the court analyzed the challenged law using strict scrutiny. In upholding the felon-in-possession statute, the court held that the law “serves a compelling governmental interest that has long been jurisprudentially recognized and is grounded in the legislature’s intent to protect the safety of the general public from felons convicted of specified serious crimes…[and] is narrowly tailored in its application to the possession of firearms or the carrying of concealed weapons for a period of only ten years from the date of completion of sentence, probation, parole, or suspension of sentence, and to only those convicted of the enumerated felonies determined by the legislature to be offenses having the actual or potential danger of harm to other members of the general public.”9.

Finally, the Louisiana Supreme Court also held in 2014 that the legislature retained the ability to pass laws regarding the carrying of concealed weapons, despite the 2012 amendment to the state’s constitution.10  In ruling that the challenged statutes regulating concealed carry and prohibiting juvenile handgun possession except under certain circumstances passed review under strict scrutiny, the court held that “[t]he right to keep and bear arms, like other rights guaranteed by [the] state constitution, is not absolute.”11 The court found “‘a long history, a substantial consensus, and simple common sense’ to be sufficient evidence for even a strict scrutiny review.”12 The court concluded that “the drafters and ratifiers [of the 2012 constitutional amendment] did not intend to invalidate the existing law restricting the carrying of concealed weapons, or to restrict the legislature’s authority to pass laws on that subject.”13

Notes
  1. 343 So. 2d 166 (La. 1977). ⤴︎
  2. Id. at 168. ⤴︎
  3. 776 So. 2d 1165 (La. 2001). ⤴︎
  4. Id. at 1173. See also State v. Wiggins, 432 So. 2d 234, 237 (La. 1983) (upholding a felon-in-possession statute); State v. Hamlin, 497 So. 2d 1369, 1371 (La. 1986) (upholding a statute requiring the registration of “weapons whose customary use in times of peace was in perpetration of crime”). ⤴︎
  5. 130 So. 3d 855 (La. 2013). ⤴︎
  6. Id. at 867. ⤴︎
  7. Id. at 867-68. ⤴︎
  8. 145 So. 3d 377 (La. 2014); see also State v. Griffin, NO. 14-KA-450, 2014 La. App. LEXIS 3001 (La. Ct. App. Dec. 16, 2014) (upholding a felon-in-possession statute, as applied to a convicted felon still under state supervision); State v. Williams, 138 So. 3d 727 (La. Ct. App. 2014) (upholding a felon-in-possession statute, as applied to a convicted felon on parole). ⤴︎
  9. Eberhardt, 145 So. 3d at 385 ⤴︎
  10. State ex rel. J.M., 144 So. 3d 853 (La. 2014). ⤴︎
  11. Id. at 860. ⤴︎
  12. Id. at 861. ⤴︎
  13. Id. at 864. ⤴︎