Last weekend, Thanksgiving, was unfortunately a very violent holiday for New Orleans. Of course, an incident on Bourbon Street (where one man was killed and nine others wounded) dominated all the local news media, but also made the national media. Tourism officials are cringing, after a year where we had a record revenues from visitors to NOLA.
For a city whose economic lifeblood—including our music and culture—is tied inextricably to the hospitality and tourism sectors, this is awful. National exposure means that visitors may think twice about visiting New Orleans, and especially Bourbon Street.
It’s a pity that New Orleans, which has struggled to improve visitation from international tourists (two direct flights to Europe were recently announced—a coveted achievement that’s taken many years to put together), now has to deal with this bad publicity.
It’s well-known amongst the citizens of the city that our police force is severely understaffed. The NOPD is doing what it can, but you can only spread police officers so far. In my humble and biased opinion, I don’t care how many cops you have on the street: all it takes is one knucklehead with a handgun to cause havoc, injury and death, especially on a packed tourist street like Bourbon. Mix guns, alcohol, drugs and knuckleheads, and you have a problem just waiting to happen. It will happen, again and again, no matter how many police you have on the street. Obviously more cops on the street may deter criminal activities, but frankly, there are probably a lot more knuckleheads than real criminals who are causing these tragedies to occur on a local scale—which then escalates into a national and international bad publicity for the city as a whole.
Bad tempers and testosterone + alcohol + knuckleheads + guns = Trouble.
Please don’t give me the old Second Amendment BS about how it’s our right to defend ourselves (against a militia?). If there were limited or no guns in the hands of criminals, knuckleheads and good people alike, these types of incidents just would not happen. They wouldn’t.
Okay, so in America we seem to be past the ability to limit weapons; I won’t go into my rant about why that is. But when you have a street party—excuse me, many, many, many street parties—that include the above equation, what can you expect? Shooting. Innocent people hurt or killed.
What can the city do? It’s almost a battle that can never be won. Unless the guns are banned or confiscated or controlled (or all of these), this will continue to happen.
So what do we do? Set up metal detectors at the perimeter of the French Quarter? Hire a TSA-like team to screen visitors before they enter? Can you imagine what that would be like? Could that even happen? Hell, you have to be screened at the Superdome to get into a Saints game. They check your possessions before you go into the Jazz Fest.
What do we do about the crowds during second line parades? Mardi Gras parades? Parades are prime-time places for Knuckleheads With Guns. Every year, there are senseless shootings at parades. Every single year. What do we do about that? Create a no-gun zone around the parade routes? Who’s going to enforce that?
Does the threat of gun violence keep New Orleanians from going to the Quarter, or to public parades? Nah, definitely not the locals. We’re inured to violence (shrug, part of life), but not so with visitors. They can be scared away from enjoying New Orleans by national publicity about local gun violence. So we have to try to do something other than talk about it. We need tourists? How about our tourist officials get involved in helping to control the proliferation of gun-carriers in the city along with NOPD and city officials? If we banned guns here, would that keep visitors from coming to New Orleans? I doubt that really, really seriously. We’d probably make national news in a good way. But we’d need some gutsy people in leadership to make this happen.
My point is: this is going to continue to happen. God help me, I’m waiting for some krewe member riding on a Mardi Gras float to be a victim of a random gun shot. Think anything might change then?
The obvious solution is to get rid of the guns. I certainly do not see this happening overall in my lifetime. The US is a violent culture, and almost takes pride in it. As long as this attitude exists and is promulgated by lobbies like the NRA, violence in America via guns will continue. More innocent bystanders will die for no reason. More people will be scared of coming to New Orleans. But I think we could take local action to help us combat this violence.
This is common sense, people. Remember, it only takes on knucklehead with a gun to take out his intended target and a bunch of innocent bystanders at the same time.