Reflecting upon weekend’s Carnival horror

There is no need to stress the tragedy that could have been during Sunday’s gunfight on the route of the Shaka parade in Thibodaux. The event was held in full daylight, thus increasing the number of children in attendance, because parents would feel there was a greater margin of safety. Burnell Tolbert, a respected community leader, narrowly escaped taking a bullet, having just stepped onto the bus that he and his family operate during Carnival for added joy to be spread. The bus took the bullet instead.

The only people physically injured were the combatants, one of whom was wearing a bullet-proof vest, making him either psychic or a perpetrator with premeditation. Charges were being prepared Monday, and we encourage District Attorney Cam Morvant to pursue every option that will keep these reckless, selfish and dangerous individuals locked away from society for as long as the law will allow. We have no doubt that he will.

Officials preparing the cases should bear in mind the terroristic nature of the defendants’ acts. Bringing loaded guns to a parade is bad business. For parade-goers to have a Carnival memory marred by such wanton violence is terrorism. The shooters have no respect for themselves, and no respect for community, and the likes of them have no place in free society.

It is easy to be critical of authorities when such a horror occurs. But, as aptly stated by Thibodaux Police Department spokesman David Melancon, some things cannot be prevented, no matter how proactive police may be.

The Thibodaux Police Department should be commended for handling multiple challenges that arose, from swiftly re-routing the parade away from the scene of the violence to managing the confused and the curious. Some criticism that we have heard – that they made entry to the crime scene difficult for qualified civilians wanting to aid the injured – is in our opinion unfair. Officers were tending to the wounded and first responders were close. Preservation of the crime scene to ensure the success of aforesaid legal proceedings is paramount. A civilian with medical training who heroically assisted, once officers allowed her to approach, is worthy of praise as well. From everything we have been able to ascertain the Thibodaux officers acted responsibly and professionally. They have a right to be proud.

There is another week of parades and festivities left in Houma and Thibodaux, and it is our hope that the events of this weekend are not a harbinger but a call to caution. It is unfortunately true that Carnival is seen by some as a license to act out, to drink irresponsibly and, as can often be the result, to act irresponsibly. Carnival brings out the best in so many people in our Bayou Region. The recent good works performed by local Carnival krewes, many of which are unsung, unreported and unheralded throughout the year, not just when parades roll, are a joyful byproduct of what is truly the greatest free show on earth.

We hope that the late unpleasant incidents – a fight on the parade route in Houma as well as the Thibodaux incident – will not mar the magic of the festivities for so many who get so much out of them.

The Thibodaux case does provide a thought-provoking by-product, regarding suggestions that state law be amended to allow carrying of weapons without a permit.

CARTE BLANCHE TO CARRY for even the most law-abiding citizens, is plain and simple a bad idea. No responsible person who seeks to carry a weapon concealed should presume that their Second Amendment right – as cherished as it may be – should not be balanced by a permit which assures that the proper class has been taken and that their background is clean. Untrained people who might have carried a gun concealed in Thibodaux Sunday – if not to the parade intentionally then just passing by – could have injected themselves into the violence, and added to the potential of spraying bullets. Thankfully that didn’t happen. The actions of the criminals involved posed risk enough.

The right to bear arms is guaranteed under the law. A right to do so without some type of scrutiny when the desire is to carry concealed, we maintain, is not. •