Constitutional Law

Gun rights amendment protects felons who possess firearms, judge rules

A Louisiana judge has struck down a state law barring gun possession by certain felons, citing a conflict with a state constitutional amendment that took effect on Jan. 1.

Judge Darryl Derbigny of Orleans Parish said the law is unconstitutional because of the new amendment making gun possession a “fundamental right,” the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. His Thursday ruling will be appealed directly to the state supreme court.

Orleans Parish public defenders had challenged the law on behalf of a half dozen defendants charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, the story says. The lawyers argued that the law unconstitutionally bans gun possession by felons other than violent offenders such as murderers or armed robbers.

Derbigny ruled in the case of a man charged with illegal gun possession because he had previously pleaded guilty to attempted simple burglary. The judge said the entire law used to charge the defendant is unconstitutional under a strict scrutiny standard that must be applied under the new constitutional amendment.

“The courts cannot question the wisdom of fundamental law and frustrate the will of the people; their function is to interpret and apply that law,” Derbigny wrote.

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