John Bel Edwards supports stronger background checks, ‘bump stock’ ban

 

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By Julia O’Donoghue

julia_odonoghue@nola.com,

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

 

Gov. John Bel Edwards said he supports stronger background checks for gun purchases and a ban on “bump stocks” that convert semiautomatic guns into automatic weapons. Edwards is a Democrat, but an avid hunter and former member of the military who has generally been supportive of gun rights. 

 

“I really believe we ought to look at the background check system,” Edwards said during his monthly radio show Wednesday (Feb. 21). 

A caller had asked the governor if he expected any changes to gun laws in Louisiana in the wake of a school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida last week.

Edwards said he suspected individual legislators would probably been drafting proposals on gun restrictions for the regular lawmaking session in March. He did not say whether he would be personally backing any of those bills or what they might contain though. 

Nevertheless, the governor said the background check system should be tightened up so a person who has committed a violent crime or has a mental illness is prevented from purchasing a firearm. 

People who have been put on the federal “no fly” list as suspected terrorists — which prevents them from taking commercial flights on airplanes — should also be restricted from purchasing guns, according to the governor. 

“I’ve also said I think devices like the bump stock ought not be legal because we don’t allow fully automatic weapons to be sold to people,” Edwards said.

Much of what the governor said he would support in terms of gun restrictions falls in line with what President Donald Trump has said he would favor this week after meeting with victims of the Florida high school shooting. 

Trump directed the U.S. Justice Department to put a regulation in place to prohibit “bump stocks” earlier this week, though it’s not clear the agency can do so without the U.S. Congress passing legislation. In recent days, Trump has also said he wants to strengthen background checks. 

 

A weapon altered by a bump stock wasn’t used in the Florida high school shooting, but the devices were attached to weapons that were used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas Oct. 1. Fifty-eight people were killed and more than 500 people were injured in that attack during an outdoor concert.

Making background checks stronger through an improved database and banning “bump stocks” are considered rather tepid moves by gun control advocates. The National Rife Association, the country’s most influential gun rights group, backs federal legislation to support background checks and placing restrictions on “bump stocks”, though it isn’t in favor of an outright “bump stock” ban.

Edwards, who regularly goes hunting,  said he personally owns pistols, shotguns and rifles. He uses a .300 Weatherby Magnum when shooting “big game”, Edwards said. A graduate of West Point, Edwards also had a M-16 rifle and later a Beretta pistol while in the Army. He does not own an assault weapon.