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Louisiana voters strengthen protection of right to bear arms

Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution which creates the strongest protection of the right to keep and bear arms in the nation. With all 4,267 precincts reporting, unofficial results from the Louisiana Secretary of State show that 73.46 percent (1,283,850 votes) [unofficial results] of the state's electorate supported the amendment. Before the amendment, Article 1, Section 11 [text] of the Louisiana State Constitution 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." Earlier this year, the Louisiana State Legislature [official website] approved a joint resolution [text, PDF] proposing the amendment to the state's voters. With the amendment, Section 11 will now read: "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." The legislature initiated the amendment process in response to the 2001 Louisiana Supreme Court decision in State v. Blanchard [opinion, PDF]. In that case the court upheld a lower court's ruling on the powers of the legislature with respect to a citizen's right to bear arms say that the "right to bear arms is established by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 11 of the Louisiana Constitution. The State of Louisiana is entitled to restrict that right for legitimate state purposes, such as public health and safety."

Gun control has been a controversial domestic and international issue in recent years. In 2010 the US Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the Second Amendment [text] applied to states and municipalities as well as the federal government. The court's decision in McDonald followed its 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report], which held that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess a handgun in the home for the purpose of self defense. Internationally, a deadline for approval of a UN arms treaty passed in July, after treaty opponents in the US urged [JURIST report] President Barach Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not to support the agreement if it contained provisions applying to civilian arms possession.

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