Millions of visitors flock to New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street every year to partake in world-renowned events like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. But in the wake of another mass shooting in the French Quarter, some local businesses fear tourists will ultimately shy away from the historic neighborhood to stay safe.
New Orleans’ French Quarter was especially crowded during the mass shooting Sunday that resulted in one dead and nine wounded. Visitors had inundated the narrow streets of the French Quarter the entire “Bayou Classic” weekend, where they partook in the Thanksgiving parade Thursday, a college football game between Grambling State and Southern University Saturday and a professional football game Sunday with the hometown team, The Saints.
The fatal shootout escalated from an argument between two men, CNN reported Sunday. None of the 10 pedestrians who were shot early Sunday morning in the crossfire were involved with the dispute.
Local police said they had “strong information” about the two suspects’ identities, but believed the men fled the city after the shooting. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called Sunday’s incident “very unfortunate.”
New Orleans businessman Sidney Torres told local reporters city officials should install mental detectors at all entrance points to the French Quarter because of the high volume of pedestrians.
"For special events and times, we need to treat Bourbon Street like the Superdome with 70,000 people in it," Torres said. "People know that when they go to the Dome, they will be safe because everyone is scanned by a wand for guns. Lives are being lost, and one of our most critically important cultural gems is being threatened."
Of the 481 murders in cities across Louisiana in 2015, New Orleans had the most with 164, according to data from the FBI. New Orleans witnessed 150 murders in 2014.
Pam Fortner, who owns 3 bars with her brother in the French Quarter, called the latest mass shooting a troubling trend of violence for tourists looking to visit New Orleans. She told local reporters news in the city “travels far and wide” among perspective visitors.
"It is news and people do read about it and it does make them nervous," Fortner said. “Safety and affordability are the two biggest factors travelers consider when deciding what cities to visit,”
Sunday’s shooting mirrored another that occurred in the French Quarter in June 2014, which resulted in the death of 21-year-old nursing student Brittany Thomas and wounded nine people. Like many victims of Sunday’s incident, Thomas was shot while attempting to run from a gunfight between two men located five blocks from the present one.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who heads Louisiana’s travel and tourism office, told local reporters that because New Orleans is oftentimes the city most visitors fly into when traveling into the state, the news of the Sunday's mass shooting will subsequently harm tourist endeavors in neighboring regions. He said greater restrictions on gun ownership laws and greater police presence in the city were required to turn the tide against the recent shootings and inspire more people to visit.
"It absolutely has an impact," Nungesser told local reporters. "The fear is when we finally realize how much of an impact it's having -- when we realize people are not feeling safe enough to come -- it's going to be too late."