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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Louisiana Gun Cases Test the Limits of "Strict Scrutiny"

At Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh has a post about State v. Webb. There, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that an enhancement to a drug crime conviction based on the defendant's possession of a firearm related to the drugs does not violate the Louisiana Constitution's protection of the right to bear arms.

This case is important because the Louisiana Constitution contains notably strong language when it comes to keeping and bearing arms. Article I, Section 1 of the Louisiana Constitution states:

The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed. Any restriction of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.
"Strict scrutiny" is the highest level of scrutiny to which laws can be subjected, and laws are often (but not always) overruled when courts apply strict scrutiny. In order to survive strict scrutiny, the government must have a compelling interest, and the law it enacts must be narrowly tailored to achieve this interest.

State v. Webb is the latest in a series of Louisiana cases that have found laws restricting the possession of firearms to meet strict scrutiny. In State v. Draughter, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that felons on probation could be restricted from possessing firearms because they were technically in the custody of the state. And Volokh also notes that in State v. ex rel. J.M., the Louisiana Supreme Court held that restricting the possession of firearms by juveniles under age 17 was constitutional.

Even though the Louisiana Constitution contains some of the strongest language against restrictions on individual citizens' abilities to keep and bear arms, the state supreme court has consistently upheld laws restricting the possession of firearms. While the language in the state constitution is strong, the level of protection does not seem too different from most other states' constitutions.

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