New Orleans Felons Getting 'Carveout' for Illegally Carrying Guns

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File

After Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signed a Constitutional Carry bill into law earlier this year, New Orleans officials were quick to demand a carveout for the city. Some lawmakers wanted to exempt New Orleans entirely from the permitless carry law, while the city's mayor and police superintendent called on legislators to carveout the French Quarter and the downtown business district from the law's provisions; making those locations "firearm-free zones" altogether. 

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As it turns out, however, there's already one demographic in New Orleans that has benefited from an unofficial carveout to the state's gun laws: convicted felons. 

Under Louisiana statute, possessing a gun after a felony conviction comes with a mandatory five-year prison sentence. But according to an investigation by WWL-TV in New Orleans, felons charged with possessing a gun are far more likely to receive probation than the mandatory minimum sentence.

A statistical analysis by the MCC shows that out of 286 felons with gun cases in 2022 and 2023, only about one-third of the defendants got sentenced to five years or more. More frequently, the sentence is probation.

So far, records show that most of the defendants have stayed out of trouble.

Yet dozens have been re-arrested, some for shocking crimes, such as Darnell Hunter. 

... Hunter, 33, was a repeat felon battling mental illness and drug addiction when he was arrested for an attempted robbery with a gun. He pleaded guilty as charged to being a felon with a firearm, yet despite being re-arrested in two brutal stabbings, he was given probation through a legal provision known as a “downward departure.”

After his release, Hunter was re-arrested in another stabbing, this one fatal.

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Where's the outrage from Mayor LaToya Cantrell or Police Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick? Both of them have been demanding that lawful citizens be disarmed in broad swathes of the city, yet neither of them have said a word about the fact that if felons are caught with a gun in New Orleans they're more likely to get probation than the mandatory minimum prison sentence. 

Chief Kirkpatrick wants to see a proposed “firearm-free” zone expanded beyond the French Quarter to include the Marigny, Central Business District, and the Warehouse District where Sunday’s mass shooting happened. 

“We've looked at it internally, it would be Calliope over to the Marigny and then Rampart down to the river, because it would encompass the main thoroughfares that our tourists would be. The Superdome, down to the warehouse, entertainment area, and the Convention Center. So, it'd be broader than just the French Quarter,” Kirkpatrick explained. 

They don't want any visitors carrying guns, while the city's top law enforcement officer is returning violent felons to the streets on probation after their caught illegally possessing firearms. The D.A.'s actions are all the more reason why tourists need access to their Second Amendment rights. They certainly can't count on prosecutors to keep them safe. 

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Lawmakers in Baton Rouge have rightfully resisted Kirkpatrick and Cantrell's demands, at least to date. After WWL-TV's investigation, I'm hoping that legislators will take a closer look at what's going on in the New Orleans D.A.'s office. The mayor and police superintendent may be unwilling to call out District Attorney Jason Williams for his soft-on-crime approach, but that doesn't mean legislators or even the governor have to remain silent as well.  

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