BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana House voted Tuesday to ban enforcement of any federal restrictions on owning semi-automatic weapons, over the objections of critics who said the measure couldn't withstand a court challenge.
Backers said the 67-25 vote was an overwhelming show of support for what they characterized as protection of individual and states' rights. It followed more than an hour of contentious discussions about, among other things, constitutional law.
The vote fell mainly along party lines, with a majority of Democrats voting against the measure by Rep. Jim Morris, R-Oil City.
Opponents argued that Louisiana can't capriciously choose which federal laws it will enforce and warned that the proposed law wouldn't stand up to a legal challenge of the "supremacy clause" of the U.S. Constitution, that federal law supersedes state law.
"You cannot pass a law that usurps federal law," said Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe.
An attempt by Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, to add language to the bill that would delay implementation until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on its legality was rejected.
Morris said the proposal was about allowing residents to exercise their choice of weapons. He said he would "stand by this law" regardless of possible litigation.
Even as he supported the proposal, Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, said his legal training and $100,000 in student loans tells him the measure may be unconstitutional.
"But I still like this bill," he added.
The House also approved a proposal that would make it a misdemeanor to release or publish the names and addresses of people who own or have applied for concealed handgun permits.
Initially the penalty for publishing the information was a felony, but bowing to political concerns, Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, voluntarily made the change.
Thompson, however, stood fast on the need for increasing the fine from $5,000 to $10,000 for publishing the information classified as confidential under state law. He called the fine a "disincentive."
"It's not the media's job or anyone else to publish information that is private," Thompson said to opponents who criticized the bill as infringing on First Amendment rights of the press.
The measure was approved 76-18 and garnered 41 co-authors.
The bills now head to the Senate for discussion.
House Bills 5 and 8 can be found at http://www.legis.la.gov
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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