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Monday, July 1, 2013
New gun law protects owners, outrages journalists
A new Louisiana press law related to gun owners has created outrage among journalists and First Amendment advocates around the country.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill last week penalizing those who publish the names of individuals who own or have applied for a concealed handgun permit with potential jail sentences of six months and fines of $10,000. An identity may only be released if a concealed handgun carrier is charged with a felony offense involving the use of a firearm.
Editor Peter Kovacs of Baton Rogue’s The Advocate said that while he doesn’t see his pape publishing a list like the New York paper The Journal News did, there is no place for such legislation.
“I think it is a bad law,” Kovacs told FoxNews.com.; “It is probably unconstitutional and follows a non-existent problem in Louisiana.”
The law raises the constitutional question of prior restraint, meaning when the government prohibits speech or other expression before it can take place.
The legislation comes six months after The Journal News, a Lower Hudson Valley newspaper published a map with the names and addresses of all licensed pistol permit holders from Westchester and Rockland counties in wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
Gun rights activists were outraged by the map, claiming it violated the privacy rights of permit owners and put them at a greater risk of violent crime, while law enforcement agencies said it could lead ex-convicts to the homes of officers who had them locked up.
The public disapproval quickly forced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to pass regulations in January allowing gun permit holders to take their names off the public records.;
The Louisiana law’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, said the bill was passed largely in response to The Journal News’ controversial map.; Jindal also defended the law in a statement last week.
“In the face of an administration in Washington that wants to take away the rights of law-abiding gun owners, we are standing up for the Second Amendment and the Constitution of the United States here in Louisiana,” Jindal said in a statement supporting the law.
“We are building on the work we’ve done to protect the rights of Louisianians while also implementing common-sense gun safety measures,” he added.
According to Stateline, Maine, Arkansas, Virginia, and Mississippi have all joined New York in passing laws addressing concealed weapons permits to condemn TheJournal News and other outlets seeking similar information.