The FBI’s recent crime report for 2012 revealed that the South continues to be more violent than the rest of America. One state in the heart of Deep South — Lousiana — is also the murder capital of the United States.
Just last week, a pastor named Ronald J. Harris Sr. was shot dead while preaching in a church in Lake Charles, La., marking the latest casualty in a state with an unusually high murder rate.
The Bayou State had 10.8 murders and nonnegligent manslaughters per 100,000 people in 2012, according to the FBI’s uniform crime report. The next-highest state was Mississippi with 7.4 per 100,000, and the lowest was New Hampshire with 1.1 per 100,000 people.
Louisiana’s murder rate far surpasses that of many other Southern states — including Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Kentucky. Two Louisiana cities, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, made our list of
America’s most dangerous cities. There’s no simple answer for why the murder rate in Louisiana is so high. However, Louisiana does have traits believed to cause extreme violence: poverty, hot weather, and
lax gun laws.
The FBI’s crime report for 2012 found nearly 68% of all homicides in America involved a firearm, and Louisiana fiercely protects the right to bear arms. The state passed an amendment in November making gun ownership a “fundamental right” like free speech and making it extremely difficult to pass laws that step on that right.
Louisiana also passed a law recently that lets its citizens apply for concealed carry handgun permits that last their entire lifetimes. Louisianans who want to walk around and openly carry their guns don’t need a permit at all under the state’s open carry law.
The state’s gun laws are probably not the only culprit for its sky-high murder rate, though. After all, California has a higher murder rate than a lot of other states, and the Brady Campaign To End Gun Violence has said it has the best gun control laws in the entire country. Another factor could be Louisiana’s relatively warm climate, which researchers have found causes violence.
Louisiana is also afflicted with a lot of poverty, which has been linked to crime. Louisiana has the third-lowest median household income ahead of Mississippi and Arkansas, according to recent Census data.
“One of the best predictors of homicide is economic stress,” University of Maryland Criminology Professor Gary LaFree previously told Business Insider.
Louisiana’s demographics may also play into its high murder rate. Its population is more than 32% black, compared to a national average of 13%, and blacks are the most frequent victims of gun violence in America.
USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham blames the slaughter of young blacks in particular on “those who think more prisons, not better schools, is the answer to youth violence.”
It may be no coincidence that the Bayou State is also reportedly the prison capital of America. Louisiana locks up more citizens per capita than any other state, and it’s still the deadliest place in America.
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