The Washington Post

Even in Louisiana, it’s constitutional to increase sentences for drug possession when the defendant also possesses a gun

In 2012, Louisiana voters amended the state constitution to protect gun rights especially strongly:

The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed. Any restriction of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.

Yesterday, in State v. Webb (La. May 7, 2014), the Louisiana Supreme Court held that the strict scrutiny test was satisfied by a law that increased a sentence for drug possession when the defendant also possessed a gun, at least “where the state could ‘show a nexus between the firearm and the drugs'”:

To promote public safety by curtailing drug trafficking, the state of Louisiana has a compelling interest in enhancing the penalty for illegal drug possession when a person engages in that illegal conduct with the simultaneous while in possession of a firearm. Undeniably, the right to keep and bear a firearm is a fundamental right in Louisiana. However, when a person is engaged in the unlawful conduct of possessing illegal drugs, the person’s own unlawful actions have “qualified his right” to engage in what would otherwise be the exercise of that fundamental right.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.

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