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Cops and Gun Owners Could Receive Immunity in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

BATON ROUGE, La. — Police officers and individuals holding permits to carry concealed weapons may soon see heightened protection from legal action in Louisiana, as separate proposals to expand immunity advanced in the state's Legislature on Tuesday.

The initiatives, forming part of Gov. Jeff Landry’s agenda for a special legislative session on crime, could significantly alter the landscape of liability for law enforcement and gun owners.

Senate Bill 2, ushered by Sen. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, cleared the Senate Judiciary B Committee in a 4-3 vote, progressing to the full chamber for consideration. Miguez’s measure extends qualified immunity—typically reserved for governmental agents—to concealed carry permit holders.

Qualified immunity shields public officials from civil liability, creating formidable barriers to lawsuits, even in injury, death, or rights violations. Miguez’s bill would extend this protection to private citizens with concealed carry permits, except in instances of gross negligence, intentional misconduct, or felony convictions resulting from criminal activity.

Opposition to the proposal surfaced from members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, who cited studies suggesting a correlation between increased gun proliferation and rising crime rates. Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, questioned the rationale behind granting concealed carry permit holders unique immunity, prompting Miguez to defend it as an exercise of inherent rights.

Meanwhile, House Bill 2, presented by Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Priarieville, seeks to enshrine and broaden qualified immunity for law enforcement in the state. Bacala’s bill would grant certified peace officers and law enforcement agencies immunity from lawsuits, barring instances of criminal, fraudulent, or intentional misconduct.

Notably, the proposed legislation eliminates the exception of gross negligence, a common avenue to challenge qualified immunity defenses. Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, expressed concern over the heightened burden of proof, emphasizing the challenge of proving intent in civil proceedings.

Bacala countered, suggesting judges could still discern criminal behavior even in the absence of criminal charges, given the lower burden of proof in civil law. Additionally, he clarified that the bill’s impact would not extend to claims filed in federal court, where many police brutality lawsuits are adjudicated.

House Bill 2 advanced from the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure without opposition, positioning it for a full chamber vote in the upcoming session.

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