Tuesday, April 08, 2014

LA: Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on Enhanced Mandatory Sentencing for Gun Possession

In 2012, the voters of Louisiana approved a constitutional amendment to the state Constitution that removed the constitutional provision that gave the State the power to regulate concealed weapons.   It added the requirement that the court use the strongest level of judicial review, strict scrutiny, for Amendment 2 cases.   There is a a good discussion of the history behind this amendment at the Volokh Conspiracy, by David Kopel.  The amendment passed with over 73 percent of the vote.

The court has already upheld bans on the possession of handguns by minors without parental approval and on felons on probation possessing firearms.

The case that come up for oral arguments on 28 March, 2014,  is a different matter.  The case is one of those that people point at as showing the insanity of the law.  Rico Webb, a 22 year old man with no criminal record, was in his girl friend's car when it was stopped for a broken taillight.   He had possession of a legal handgun, and he told police that he had a "blunt" (small cigar with marijuana filler) in his backpack.   From theadvocate.com:
Justices expressed mixed reaction as they heard oral arguments in the case of Rico Webb, a 23-year-old man who was caught in a car with one marijuana cigar in his backpack and a gun on the floorboard after New Orleans police pulled over his girlfriend for a broken taillight.

The gun was legal and Webb, who has no criminal record, normally would have faced only a fine and probation for misdemeanor possession after the September 2012 arrest. But the combination of the firearm and the marijuana became a felony that, under state law, carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison without the possibility of parole.
 From the Volohk Conspiracy:
 Under “strict scrutiny,” the burden of proof is reversed; the government bears the burden of proving that a gun control law is constitutional. To pass strict scrutiny, a law must be proven to serve a “compelling state interest” (not merely a “legitimate purpose”). Even if the law does advance a compelling state interest, the law is constitutional only if the government additionally proves that the law is “narrowly tailored” and is the “least restrictive means” to advance the compelling state interest.
The state says that the "compelling state interest" is public safety, which is unconvincing to me.    The defense is quoted as claiming that the law is not narrowly tailored, but is far too broad.   I find that convincing, but I wonder if the court will.   A public defender brought this case to the Supreme Court.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch

1 comment:

Backwoods Engineer said...

How did he buy the firearm? If through an FFL, he lied (there is an illegal drug question on the 4473), and that in itself carries a federal felony penalty.

I keep telling libertarians that if you smoke marijuana, you are now a "prohibited possessor", and the feds will get you.