BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The House backed a proposal Monday that would allow gun buyers and sellers to circumvent any federal firearms ban if the gun was manufactured in the state, though no manufacturer now exists in Louisiana.
The proposal by state Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, would create the "Louisiana Manufactured Firearms and Ammunition Act," providing for state licensing and regulations instead of federal oversight.
Lopinto said the measure is a way to avoid any future federal regulations that would restrict ownership of certain guns.
"I'm trying to put something in law that protects Louisiana rights," Lopinto said.
The bill was approved 75-20, primarily along party lines, with Republicans backing the measure and members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus opposing it. It heads to the Senate for discussion.
The law defines a firearm as "any pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, or submachine gun, which is designed to fire or is capable of firing fixed cartridge ammunition or from which shot or a projectile is discharged."
Lopinto said his bill doesn't violate the constitution in that Louisiana-made firearms and ammunition would be strictly an intrastate business as opposed to the federally regulated interstate commerce.
"This is not subject to the commerce clause," said Lopinto, who is an attorney, but acknowledged it would be up to a federal court to determine that.
Several other states have passed or are considering similar bills after President Barack Obama have called for stricter gun control, especially a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons.
Opponents of Lopinto's bill warned that expanding gun laws, particularly bills that restrict federal authority, could mean a reduction in federal money.
"The problem that I have with this bill is that it may be doing something that could cause money problems," said Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia. "Are you concerned that some dollars will disappear?"
Lopinto said he didn't think the law would cause a federal backlash.
The law names the Louisiana State Police as the licensing and regulatory agency for state-manufactured guns and firearms. Manufacturers of guns that are sold outside the state would continue to be governed by federal rules, Lopinto said.
Louisiana State Police estimates it would cost $2.2 million to set up the licensing and $600,000 annually afterwards. Legislative fiscal analysts say they can't corroborate the estimates because it's unclear if any companies would seek the license and need regulation.