Bill to raise age for assault-type weapons purchases moves to full state Senate

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - NOPD Chief Michael Harrison traveled to the state Capitol Tuesday to testify in favor of a bill to keep anyone under age 21 from purchasing an assault weapon.

After the shooting massacre at a Florida high school, the push for tougher gun laws has intensified among some Louisiana state lawmakers.

"What this bill does is it brings in line what federal law already calls for, which is that handguns cannot be purchased by anyone under the age of 21. What this law would do is mirror that," said Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, the sponsor of the bill.

Harrison sat next to Carter in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Having served in both the military and now serving law enforcement at the local level, there is no really good reason why anyone should be purchasing it at all, but much less a person not mature enough to use it to defend themselves or their home," said Harrison.

He said in reality, such weapons are not typically used to defend people or property.

"In the 51 murders that we've had this year, the 157 we had last year, the 174 the year before that and the 164 we had the year before that, and my first year as chief, on average, with about 350 non-fatal shootings a year, there has not been one instance in all of those where an assault weapon was used by a citizen to defend their home or to themselves," Harrison said.

Gun rights supporters spoke against Sen. Carter's legislation.

"Majority is obtained upon reaching the 18 years, so this is not about kids," said Bradley Pearson.

"Raising the age from 18 to 21 years affects the constitutional rights of over 180,000 Louisiana citizens, law abiding citizens," said Dan Zelenka, president of the Louisiana Shooting Association.

Carter said the weapons are designed for killing many.

"Ak-47, UZI, AR-15, the types of weapons that we've seen used in the kind of heinous crimes in Florida, in Columbine and in Las Vegas, and so many others where we have these weapons that can, that are, equipped to fire off rapid rounds and can be readily named a weapon of mass destruction," said Carter.

The bill advanced to the full Senate for consideration on a 4-to-3 vote.