After New Orleans officials were unsuccessful in their attempts to get state lawmakers to designate vast swathes of their city’s popular tourist area as a gun-free zone before Louisiana’s new permitless carry law went live July 4, they came up with their own solution, which is probably unconstitutional, definitely whacky and certain to be contested in court.

The New Orleans Police Department has designated their Eighth District police station – which is located in the middle of the French Quarter – as a vocational technical school. In other words, they turned a working police station into a vo-tech. Now, everything within a 1,000-foot radius of the “school” is a gun-free zone, including more than five blocks of Bourbon Street, an international tourist destination.

It is a felony in Louisiana to violate a gun-free zone, which is punishable by up to five years in a state prison at hard labor.

Who will actually attend classes at the new “school” is not known. New Orleans Police recruits are trained at the police academy, which is located at a different facility. However, city and police officials now claim some of the recruits may take at least one class in a small room at the new “vo-tech.” There are no classes planned for civilian students.

Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill balked at the city’s move, warning officials they could face civil rights lawsuits because of their “made-up designation.”

“I’m working hard to help keep New Orleans safe, but the City cannot avoid state law by unilaterally designating police stations ‘vo-tech locations.’ You cannot just ‘designate’ yourself a vo-tech school. Among other implications, if it was one (it’s not) the police department would be under the jurisdiction of a board of supervisors for higher education, and it would be subject to other oversight requirements. I have no specific plans yet, but would caution the NOPD that it will likely be subject to civil rights lawsuits under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act if it arrests people pursuant to its made-up designation, which is clearly not legal or effective. I certainly hope the NOPD isn’t violating people’s rights by making up their own rules, which is why the Department is under a federal consent decree,” Murrill said in a statement posted on social media.

“Schools have classrooms, not booking rooms,” Murrill said in another post.

Previous civil rights abuse

Law-abiding gun owners should use extreme caution until the Bourbon Street gun-free zone can be overturned, because NOPD officers have a history of aggressively targeting concealed carriers, including tourists. In fact, the NOPD has an abysmal record of infringing upon the Second Amendment.

After Hurricane Katrina devasted large portions of the city, NOPD officers went door-to-door confiscating legally owned firearms from city residents – in complete contravention of the Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Years later, after the courts ordered the weapons returned to their owners, it was learned most were improperly stored and were allowed to rust into dust.

Since 2012, the NOPD has operated under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice after a federal civil rights investigation found that the department had “a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or federal law.” In other words, the federal government took control of the police department and ordered them to comply with a massive list of changes and issue quarterly compliance reports of their progress. So far, the DOJ has shot down all attempts by NOPD to terminate the agreement.

Reaction

No one from NOPD’s public affairs division returned calls or emails for this story.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell did not return calls or emails sent to her staff seeking her comments for this story.

Dan Zelenka is an attorney, a board member of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and president of the Louisiana Shooting Association, a nonprofit founded in 1966 with thousands of members, which is affiliated with the Civilian Marksmanship Program and the National Rifle Association.

“The Louisiana Shooting Association of course opposes this redesignation, and the reason is that it’s not a school. You can’t wave a magic wand and create a school just because you teach a class there,” Zelenka told the Second Amendment Foundation Monday.

Louisiana state law is very specific, Zelenka said, regarding what constitutes a vo-tech which, as the Attorney General pointed out in her statement, are subject to the supervision of a board of supervisors for higher education.

“They’re claiming their new school is an adjunct of their police academy, but their police academy is not supervised or managed by this board of supervisors, so they can’t be a vo-tech,” Zelenka said.

City officials, he said, have already changed their gun-free zone maps to include the 1,000-foot circle around the Eighth District station.

“Personally, I think our laws are clear,” Zelenka said. “A police station is not a school.”

Dan Zelenka (Photo courtesy of the CCRKBA).

Takeaways

Clearly, city officials made an end run around state law and the constitution. They have never understood it’s the hoodlums, not the guns, who have turned their beautiful city into a crime-ridden hellhole.

Since they now can turn police stations into schools with a wave of their magic wand, why stop there? Why not turn shopping malls into unicorn sanctuaries, fire departments into spaceports or Caesars Superdome into a Quidditch field.

That they have become so desperate indicates that the gun-banners are losing, and they know it. Twenty-nine states now offer some form of permitless or constitutional carry, and more are coming.

The Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project wouldn’t be possible without you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support pro-gun stories like this.