Our Views: Probing La. gun violence

Louisiana leads the nation for its rates of gun violence, according to a new study released by the Center for American Progress, a left-of-center public policy organization based in Washington, D.C. While acknowledging that many factors can feed violent crime, the group’s spokesperson, Tara McGuinness, suggested that tougher gun laws should be in any mix of reforms aimed at reducing gun violence in the state. CAP’s research showed that 10 states with the weakest gun laws had a level of gun violence more than twice as high as the 10 states with the strongest gun laws.

We’re glad that McGuiness recognized that violent crime is a difficult problem not easily addressed by single solution. We’ve certainly aware of that in Baton Rouge, where most of the violent crime occurs in neighborhoods troubled by broken homes, lack of education and poverty. We’re glad that Baton Rouge law enforcement officials, churches and social service agencies are working together to fight violent crime on multiple fronts. We’re also glad that a similar initiative is unfolding in high-crime areas of New Orleans.

The CAP report inspired some predictable reactions along partisan lines. A handful of local gun control activists embraced the report’s findings, but Gov. Bobby Jindal dismissed the report as wrong-headed. He expressed general skepticism about the notion of gun control, although the governor said that his office is working to have more mental health records put into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.

We support the right to bear arms, and we don’t think that vigorous background checks diminish that right. And we believe there’s an opportunity for common ground among liberals and conservatives in the cause of fighting gun violence by strengthening family and neighborhood bonds.

We hope that the Center for American Progress report is the start of a conversation, not the end of one.