Concealed handgun interest increasing
State Police uncertain of reasons behind rise
By KIMBERLY VETTER
Advocate staff writer
Published: May 29, 2006
By the numbers
During the past 10 years, Louisiana State Police have issued 21,605 concealed-weapons permits and refused to grant another 1,618 to people who did not meet the qualifications, such as a criminal background check. Of the permits issued:
6,079 were issued to people between the ages of 51 and 60, the leading age group for permits.
4,484 were issued to people between the ages of 61 and 70, the second-leading age group for permits.
3,354 were issued to people in Jefferson Parish, the leading parish in the state for permits.
2,712 were issued to people in East Baton Rouge Parish, the second-highest parish in the state for permits. Source: Louisiana State Police
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING
Capt. Boby Font, left, of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Division, talks about the proper way to handle a gun during a concealed-weapons class in May at the Sheriff’s Office training facility on West Irene Road. Deputy Roy Paxton, another course instructor, listens. The handguns displayed are, counter-clockwise from top right, a Sig Sauer 9mm semiautomatic, a Colt .45 caliber semiautomatic, a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver and a Ruger .45 caliber single-action revolver.
More people are applying for permits to carry concealed weapons since Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans on Aug. 29.
The increase, however, may have more to do with local crime rates than with the lawlessness in New Orleans in the days after the hurricane, officials said.
Applications for the permits initially decreased 15 percent in September, the month after the storm, according to Louisiana State
Police, the law enforcement agency responsible for administering concealed-weapons permits.
The applications then jumped 20 percent in October and the average per month grew 34 percent to 195 in March and April, State Police said.
The increase in applications could be attributed to a backlog of applications, State Police say. But, the agency isn’t sure.
In addition, monthly concealed-weapons safety classes with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office have been either full or almost full since they resumed in April, officials with the Sheriff’s Office said.
Thirteen people attended the class in April and 12 people attended in May. Classes in June, July and August are full, with 20 people scheduled to attend.
Capt. Bobby Font, who teaches concealed-weapons safety classes with the Sheriff’s Office, said the interest in the classes is not necessarily tied to the hurricane. In fact, the level of interest is nothing like the level when serial killer Derrick Todd Lee was on the loose, he said.
Interest in concealed weapons comes in spurts and usually follows an increase in violent crime, including armed robbery, Font said.
Major crime in Baton Rouge has increased slightly during the first three months of the year, according to statistics posted on the Baton Rouge Police Department’s Web site.
Seventy-one more major crimes were reported in January, February and March of this year compared with the same period in 2005, a 1.8 percent increase.
Crimes against people — murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and assault — went up 1.5 percent overall, with rapes increasing the most at 33 percent.
Crimes against property — burglary, theft, auto theft and arson — went up 1.8 percent, with arson showing the greatest increase at 36 percent.
Of those people who take Font’s class, about 25 percent have either been a crime victim or are close to one, he said. While many people walk into the class thinking a gun might protect them from criminals, several never obtain a permit, he said.
“Can you truly take a life?” Font asked. That is the question people have to ask themselves when thinking about owning a weapon, he said.
The decision to apply for a concealed-weapons permit and to carry the weapon should “not be taken lightly,” Font added. “You are held accountable for every bullet you launch,” he said.
Since Louisiana enacted the 1996 concealed-weapons law, no one has died at the hands of a permit holder, State Police said. In two cases, someone was injured.
On Feb. 17 in Baton Rouge, a resident shot and killed George Temple II after the police officer Temple was fighting with called for help, Sheriff’s Office officials say.
The incident, however, is not a concealed-weapons case.
Although the resident, Perry Stephens, has a concealed-weapons permit, according to State Police, he had retrieved from his car
the .45-caliber handgun he used to shoot Temple, Sheriff’s Office officials said.
In Louisiana, one’s car is considered an extension of one’s home. Residents can keep handguns in their homes or cars without a permit, as long as certain legal issues don’t bar them from doing so.
Those who have a permit for a concealed weapon can carry it anywhere except airports, bars, houses of worship, government buildings, parades and schools.