Gun violence continues to affect black people in Louisiana at a disproportionate rate, according to a new analysis that found the state has the fifth-highest rate of black homicide victims in the country.
The annual study, conducted by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., put Louisiana’s rate of black homicide victims at 25.75 per 100,000 black residents in 2012, the most recent year for which comprehensive data were available.
The state far outpaced the national rate of 18 homicide victims per 100,000 black residents the same year.
The study, based on unpublished FBI data, found there were 384 black homicide victims in Louisiana in 2012. The only states that had higher rates were Missouri, which led the country, Nebraska, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
“The devastation homicide inflicts on black teens and adults is a national crisis,” the study warned, “yet it is all too often ignored outside of affected communities.”
The study also noted that black people accounted for 50 percent of all homicide victims in the country in 2012 though they represented just 13 percent of the U.S. population.
A review of police data shows the disparity has been particularly acute in New Orleans, which for years has had among the highest murder rates in the nation.
Approximately 92 percent of the city’s homicide victims last year were black, according to a New Orleans Police Department tally that included both murder victims and people killed in justifiable homicides. That’s compared with census estimates that show only 59 percent of the city’s residents in 2013 were black, according to The Data Center.
Josh Sugarmann, the Violence Policy Center’s executive director, said Louisiana’s dismal ranking is inexorably linked to gun violence, which he referred to as a national epidemic. In cases in which the weapon used could be identified, 87 percent of the state’s black homicide victims in 2012 were killed with guns, the study found.
“Louisiana has very few laws on the books regarding firearm sale and possession that go beyond the federal standards, and it certainly has in place a statewide pre-emption that does not allow cities or communities that would like to pass local laws to try and address these issues,” Sugarmann said in an interview.
Cathie Whittenburg, the communications director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, another national nonprofit, called on state lawmakers to “address this national emergency.”
Referring to national figures for 2012, she said, “We cannot call ourselves a moral nation yet tolerate losing 6,565 black men and women to homicide in one year.”
Louisiana has consistently had among the highest rates of black homicide victims in the country over the past decade, according to the Violence Policy Center, fluctuating from the second-worst in 2004 to 11th-worst in 2008.
Tamara Jackson, who runs the local nonprofit Silence Is Violence campaign, said education and the economy are among the driving factors of that trend. She said most of the victims her organization works with are men, although she has noticed an increase of cases involving women.
“A lot of African-American males are struggling financially, and they resort to the street trade of drug trafficking and other criminal activities to sustain themselves,” Jackson said. “But the end result of that is either incarceration or death.”
Staff writer Benjamin Oreskes contributed to this report. Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.