Race and Legal Handgun Concealment in Southeast Louisiana: A Spatial Examination

S.E. Costanza, Western Washington University
John Kilburn, Eastern Connecticut State University
Thomas Sullenberger, Southeastern Louisiana University

This study focuses on actions taken by the citizenry after the passage of the 1996 Shall-Issue Act in Louisiana. Much attention is particularly given to the geographic distribution of concealed handgun permits throughout southeast Louisiana, an area that is well known for its cultural and racial diversity. The research effort we present here is unique, as it pertains to the attempt to legitimize the carrying of firearms in a historical "hot bed of racial tension" (Inverarity 1969). We also view legal gun concealment as a unique issue to that of illegal gun ownership that has been the main focus of much previous firearms research. Since the decision to legalize concealed weapons in Louisiana in 1996, approximately 11,000 people have applied for a permit to carry firearms. Of these only 120 had been denied by the spring of 1999. We first report the geographic prevalence of licensed handgun permits and discuss the characteristics of those regions with a higher percentage of concealed weapon permitees. Geographic patterns among legal gun concealers in Southeast Louisiana are of particular interest because these patterns indicate that the distribution of legal handgun concealment follows a pattern of hypersegregation. As we report, the highest rates of handgun concealment licenses are in "white-flight" areas surrounding New Orleans. In sum, there is much statistical evidence to support the argument that in southeastern Louisiana, legal handgun concealment is more a function of political views on race than a function of rational fear of victimization.

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Updated 05/20/2006