The House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee will consider House Bill 488 on Wednesday, April 29, at 9:30 a.m., in Committee Room 6 of the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Even though the title of HB 488, sponsored by state Representative Helena Moreno (D-New Orleans), is "Family Violence", the definition of “domestic abuse” that is expanded under the bill and that would result in a lifetime ban on Second Amendment rights under federal law and a 10-year prohibition on gun ownership under state law would no longer need to include family relationships or violence. Further, a broader class of relationships would be applied by the bill to the sort of restraining orders that, under state law, would result in a loss of Second Amendment rights for the duration of the order. The threshold for a prohibition under the restraining order provision is even lower than under the domestic abuse battery provision, as no conviction, prosecution, or even arrest is necessary for such an order to be issued.
In 2014, the Legislature passed House Bill 753, also sponsored by Rep. Moreno, which was presented to lawmakers as a state codification of federal law prohibiting the possession of firearms by individuals who are convicted of a domestic abuse misdemeanor or who are subject to a protective order. Several provisions of the introduced-version of HB 753 greatly exceeded the scope of federal law, and major amendments were necessary to put the bill in a posture to where it tracked federal statutes.
A mere nine months after HB 753 took effect and before any meaningful analysis can be conducted on its impact, Rep. Moreno and the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence have brought HB 488 before the Louisiana Legislature for consideration. Once again, the introduced-version of this legislation expands far beyond the prohibitions in federal law in a number of significant ways.
Additionally, national gun control groups have publicly acknowledged a shift in focus to domestic violence issues in an effort to broaden the number and types of misdemeanor crimes for which a conviction would result in the dispossession of firearms.
Below is a comparison between HB 488 and state and federal law, as well as a list of key committee members who you should contact in opposition to this far-reaching measure:
HB 488 includes "threats of force" in the definition of a "crime of violence”. Federal law only applies where there is an actual use of force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.
Current Louisiana law (R.S. 14:35.3) designates any crime of violence in R.S. 14:2(B) committed by one household member against another as an act of domestic abuse for consideration in any civil or criminal proceeding. HB 488 would add any offense involving the use of force or the threat of the use of force to the list of offenses for which a conviction would result in a prohibition on the possession of firearms for 10 years under state law and a permanent prohibition under federal law.
Federal law 18 U.S.C. Section 922(a)(33)(A) limits a firearms prohibition to convictions for misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence that have, as an element, the use or attempted use of force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.
HB 488 includes stalking, which doesn’t require any actual force or even a direct threat, among offenses for which a conviction would result in a prohibition on the possession of firearms for 10 years. There is no comparable provision in federal law.
“Stalking” under R.S. 14:40.2(C)(1) & (2) could include harassment via telephone, electronic mail, sending messages via a third party or sending letters or pictures. No physical contact need take place.
R.S. 14:40.2(B)(2)(A) already provides for felony penalties – and an accompanying 10-year disqualifier on firearms possession – for individuals convicted of the most serious forms of stalking: anyone who is found by a judge or jury to have, beyond a reasonable doubt, placed the victim in fear of death or bodily injury by the actual use or possession of a dangerous weapon OR found beyond a reasonable doubt to have placed the victim in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury.
HB 488 expands the relationships that would factor into a designation of an offense as “domestic abuse” – which would trigger a 10-year firearms prohibition upon conviction – to include a "dating partner." This could potentially include any person that an individual has ever had a "social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature."
Federal law limits application of the firearms prohibition to misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim.
Please contact the below members of the Criminal Justice Committee and urge them to oppose this far-reaching measure.
Key Criminal Justice Committee Members:
Chairman Joe Lopinto (R-Metairie)
Rep. Chris Hazel (R-Pineville)
Rep. Frank Howard (R-Many)
Rep. Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro)
Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs)
Rep. Sherman Mack (R-Livingston)
Rep. Brian Adams (R-Gretna)
Rep. Terry Brown (I-Colfax)
Rep. Mickey Guillory (D-Eunice)