Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Louisiana Gun Amendment & Stupid Politicians

Another step toward guns on campus

By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South Column
October 28, 2012 – Revised
Hammond, La., Sunday Star, 4A-5A

When I was a ninth grader at a local high school, a student stuck a loaded .357 magnum pistol in my face while on school grounds. Three of us were behind the agriculture shop, and one of the guys took a pistol from a truck cab and started horsing around. I stared at the revolver a few moments before he finally put it back inside the truck.

Because of the code of silence adhered to by teenagers, I never said anything to school staff or my parents. I suspect the student with the gun would have been expelled from school. The act would be taken even more seriously now than in the mid-1980s. The threat of gun violence in schools is serious, and no student should keep silent about other teens with guns.

I do regret having to write this column. I should have said something about the gun at school. But I am speaking up now about a far more serious threat.

I am disturbed by Constitutional Amendment No. 2 on the current ballot. The seemingly benign statement about protecting gun rights in Louisiana is anything but innocent. If the “strict scrutiny” test passes on Nov. 6th, Louisiana will have the most dangerous gun law in America. The proposed amendment has been attacked by The Advocate, The Gambit Weekly, New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, and the Council for a Better Louisiana, among many others (1). They want you to vote No on the amendment. 

Before any reader questions my belief in the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, think again. I am not anti-gun. On the contrary, I own a number of guns myself.

What I am against is the stupidity of Louisiana politicians. This is an example of one of the most egregious and cynical acts committed by the Jindal Machine. Senator Neil Riser (R-Columbia), a mortician and close Jindal ally, authored the bill. It is nothing more than a pandering attempt to score points with the gun lobby and to show that Jindal is a “real” conservative to his national audience. But Louisiana already has some of the least restrictive gun laws in America. We are an open carry and concealed carry state. These freedoms are not under threat by the Legislature in Baton Rouge.

But what Senator Riser has done is create a solution to a problem that did not exist, as some commentators have argued. Be very dubious of any politician’s motives when this occurs. All politicians make the most out of a crisis, not letting a good crisis go to waste. It’s a pony of an altogether different color to create a crisis in order to fix one. That’s a recipe for disaster.

What does this amendment do?

It allows all Louisiana gun laws to come under the “strict scrutiny” doctrine. For example, let’s say a Southeastern Louisiana University student decides he wants to carry his Glock to class, which is currently illegal, and he gets the National Rifle Association or some other group to file suit on his behalf for free. Well, if a state judge says the campus policy is a violation of Amendment No. 2, the policy is struck down. 

Please recall that the Legislature has been unable to pass a “guns on campus” bill. But if a judge is willing to rule in a plaintiff’s favor, guns will be allowed on campuses from Nunez Community College in Chalmette to LSU-Shreveport. What could not pass in the light may pass in the darkness. 

Where are the higher education leaders on this issue? They are silent, fearing for their jobs under the Jindal dictatorship, I suppose. 

But it’s not just college campuses at risk. How about eighteen-year-olds at Hammond High Magnet School? What if they want to pack their shotguns to class? All they need is a good lawyer and a willing Louisiana judge to sign on. Rather than a “willing” judge, might I say a “bought” one? 

Same with court houses and parents at elementary schools packing heat to PTA meetings, on and on. All it takes is a lawsuit and a judge. 

Amendment No. 2 is a lawyer’s paradise and a citizen’s hell.

But another important issue is whether guns will be allowed inside the Louisiana State Capitol? It’s conceivable.

Remember, we lost Governor Huey Long to gunfire back in the days before the X-ray machines were placed at the entrances of the Capitol. I heard a local woman quip that Governor Jindal has nothing to fear if guns are allowed at the Capitol. He’s never in Louisiana anyway.

I believe there are a few places too sacred to bring our guns—even in America. These places include elementary and high schools, universities, court houses, the Louisiana State Capitol, hospitals, and our houses of worship.

Let’s vote against Amendment No. 2 and keep these places sacred and gun free. It’s important.

1. Correction: The print version of this opinion piece misidentified the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana as opposing the legislation. However, they did not take a position but provided analysis of the amendment here on pages 7-11.

Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at
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