BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisianans would have to wait until they reach drinking age to buy an assault weapon if lawmakers agree to a proposal that advanced Tuesday in the Senate.

Lawmakers on a Senate judiciary committee voted 4-3 to narrowly pass a measure barring the sale of assault weapons to people under the age of 21, sending the proposal to the full Senate for debate. State law currently allows assault weapons to be sold to 18-year-olds.

Sen. Troy Carter, the New Orleans Democrat who sponsored the bill, framed his proposal as a common-sense restriction in the wake of mass shootings such as this year’s rampage at a Florida high school in which 17 people were killed.

“This is not partisan, this is certainly not against hunters, this is definitely not against law abiding gun owners, this is about a basic measure that could save lives,” said Carter, who described himself as a gun enthusiast.

The bill was backed by New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael S. Harrison. He told lawmakers that young people in his city are using assault weapons to commit crimes, not to defend themselves.

“Very rarely, if any, are citizens using them to defend themselves or to defend their homes,” he said of assault rifles. “Almost in every instance, just like in New Orleans, everywhere across the country, it’s being used in terrible assaults from one person against another.”

Opponents argued the bill would hurt responsible gun owners and said age restrictions won’t keep people from finding ways to kill someone. One Republican lawmaker said that there was recently an incident where a person was beaten to death with a fireplace mantel.

Republican Sen. Fred Mills joined Democratic Sens. Regina Barrow, Troy Carter and Yvonne Colomb to vote in favor of the bill. Sens. Dan Claitor, Jonathan “J.P.” Perry and Mack “Bodi” White, all Republicans, voted against the measure.

Roughly two dozen bills involving guns have been filed so far this year. Several Republicans have proposed measures to allow concealed handguns at schools and the arming of teachers or other school officials. Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing firearm restrictions.


Senate Bill 274: http://www.legis.la.gov