Louisiana students, technically as young as kindergarteners, who bring toy guns to school could face criminal penalties if House Bill 43, pre-filed by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, passes the 2017 Legislature when it convenes April 10.

The bill would ban the possession of “imitation firearms, projectiles or ammunition” in Louisiana schools, at school-sponsored events or within 1,000 feet of campuses. It includes BB guns, firearm replicas, CO2 propellant guns and other firearm devices that are “substantially similar in coloration and overall appearance to an existing firearm as to lead a reasonable person to perceive that the device is a firearm.”

Violators, students and non-students, could be subject to six months in prison and/or a $250 fine for a first offense. A second offense would mean a six-month sentence and $500 fine. The bill is silent on how far down the age scale it goes.

While Horton says her proposed law is not intended to target “five-year-olds,” the measure as it stands includes no exemption for age, applying to elementary schools, secondary schools, high schools, vocational-trade schools, colleges and universities.

Though non-specific school policies already exist to prevent students from bringing toys to school without permission, Horton said these policies do not include the penalties for offenders and protections for police officers that her legislation provides.

Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington requested Horton propose the legislation after a student in a Bossier Parish school pulled an imitation gun and pointed it at a police officer. Horton said the fake gun had been modified to the point a trained eye could not tell the difference.

She said the bill began as a local effort but expanded into statewide legislation because the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association saw similar concerns in other parishes.

Horton, who is an advocate for Second Amendment rights, described HB43 as “common sense” legislation. It includes exemptions for law enforcement officers and students participating in activities such as ROTC.

The bill would also exempt possession of the prohibited items on private property, in private residences or in a vehicle within 1,000 feet of a school campus.

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