Jun 4, 2013 8:06 PM
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Two far-reaching House-approved bills that sought to prohibit federal oversight of gun laws in Louisiana have stalled in the state Senate and apparently won't become law this session.
Promoted as states' rights measures against what backers called an increasingly intrusive federal government, the proposals were easily approved in the House despite concerns that they were unconstitutional.
One of the bills would have prohibited enforcement of any federal restrictions on semi-automatic weapons, while the other would have allowed gun buyers to circumvent federal gun laws if the weapon was manufactured in the state and remained there. But senators have shelved the measures through procedural moves, facing hurdles that appear unable to be met by session's end Thursday. The House lawmakers who sponsored both proposals said Tuesday that they consider the measures dead for the session, though no votes have been taken by the Senate to officially reject the bills. After opponents repeatedly questioned the legality of the bill to prohibit enforcement of federal restrictions on semi-automatic weapons, the Senate delayed a vote on the measure by Rep. Jim Morris, R-Oil City. It has lingered on the calendar since May 21.
"I'm going to say it's dead for the session," Morris said Tuesday. "I can't get anybody to move it."
Morris took exception to those who pronounced his bill unconstitutional, saying that declaration is a function of the courts and judges, not lawmakers.
"For a senator to stand up and say, 'It's unconstitutional and we can't do it,' is incorrect," he said.
Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, said his proposal to exempt from federal regulations any guns manufactured and maintained in Louisiana is scrapped as well, a victim of a short session and a crowded calendar.
Lopinto's bill, called the Louisiana Manufactured Firearms and Ammunition Act, never made it out of the Senate Finance Committee, where it was redirected after questions were raised about implementation costs.
"Without the federal regulations breathing down our necks at this time, I wasn't going to force them to have to have another meeting in order to hear it," Lopinto said. "We ran into a short session with a lot of budget issues, and the committee was dealing with more pressing matters."
Lopinto said he may bring the proposal up again next year.
A Montana federal appeals court is considering the merits of a similar state law after a lower court rejected that state's Firearms Freedom Act as unconstitutional. Montana was the first state to enact such a law in 2009 that would prohibit federal oversight of state-made firearms.
Louisiana lawmakers, as in many Republican-leaning states in the South and Midwest, filed several bills this session that sought to expand access to guns while restricting federal oversight.
The proposals followed the introduction of federal bills to tighten background checks and some gun restrictions following the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting in December that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead. Those gun control proposals stalled in Congress.