State Police Col. Mike Edmonson allows that, since resuming French Quarter patrols in March, his officers have seized 125 guns.
That may sound like quite an achievement, given that Louisiana law is probably the gun-friendliest in the country.
Although a permit is required for a concealed weapon, carrying one in plain view is not illegal. The Second Amendment, moreover, is not regarded as sufficient here; the state Constitution was amended in 2012 to declare the right to bear arms “fundamental,” and require “strict scrutiny” by the courts of any legislation designed to regulate it.
That wasn’t in force when several hundred guns were confiscated in New Orleans during the wild and woolly aftermath of Katrina. The NRA raised a ruckus, filing a lawsuit that was settled when the city returned the guns to their owners.
But that is ancient history. State Police are too well schooled in the constitutional rights of Quarter revellers to go around grabbing guns willy-nilly these days. Edmonson says his guys only confiscate guns used in the commission of crime or otherwise illegally toted.
While troopers were on the look-out for guns on the streets of the French Quarter, agents from the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control were getting an eyeful in the clubs and bars around Bourbon Street. They were investigating tips that lewd behavior has been going on there.
Their hard undercover work certainly paid off. The evidence they gathered suggests that, behind the doors of those clubs and bars, strippers reveal more than the statutory maximum and illicit touching occurs. Hookers ply their trade, and drugs are present.
“This doesn’t surprise me when I took at the locations,” Edmonson said. “A lot of complaints have come from citizens about this type of behavior at those locations, and this certainly gives those some credence going forward.”
Well, perhaps we should be glad that the head of State Police was not taken aback to discover a French Quarter club would be a poor choice for a wholesome family outing. If he had been surprised, he would have been the only one for sure. New Orleans is, after all, famous for “this type of behavior” from one end of the country to the other; indeed, it is why many denizens of prissy Midwestern burgs, say, like to come here.
The notion that the authorities needed a tipoff to discover vice in the French Quarter may be quite humorous, but ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert adopted a similar line. He said his agents acted on complaints passed on by NOPD sleuths stationed right there in the Quarter.
Cops, who always give their investigations silly names, called this one “Operation Trick or Treat.” At a press conference following its completion, Hebert announced that he has suspended the liquor licenses of five joints and seven more closures are anticipated. Edmonson said criminal charges are also contemplated.
It was largely thanks to the tourist industry that state troopers returned to the French Quarter. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau chipped in $2.5 million for overtime, while local hotels and restaurants agreed to accommodate troopers gratis. It is unlikely that the intent was to nail hookers and strippers, when violent crime was what threatened to diminish the Quarter’s appeal.
Cops can hardly be blamed for enforcing the law, but, if these raids have any impact on tourism, they are unlikely to boost it. The Quarter’s reputation for sin is money in the bank.
Still, Edmonson applauds Hebert’s efforts, and says the “culture” of the French Quarter needs to be changed. The relatively minor crimes uncovered by Hebert’s sleuths often point the way to heavier stuff, he says.
Edmonson says that, since returning to the Quarter, troopers have made 1,400 arrests, 533 of them for drugs. Given that French Quarter visitors, if they aren’t stoned on drugs, are quite likely to be drunk, and so many guns have been seized, it is no wonder that locals find the “culture” of Bourbon Street easy to resist.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.