Mason Matthews, 10, leaves a card at a makeshift memorial for shooting victim Jillian Johnson on Friday at Red Arrow Workshop in River Ranch in Lafayette.
Don't expect anything to change.
Three people are dead and nine are injured after the Grand 16 Theatre shootings in Lafayette. The deadly attack drew international media attention, condolences from politicians across the state and shook the heart of Cajun Country.
It was a drop in Louisiana's bloody bucket.
"Nothing at all will change. It never does," said Jon Landrieu, a political observer, journalist and chair of LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication. "We cry and hug and shrug and move on. It's the American way."
Media and candidates' supporters across the state received emails from gubernatorial candidates starting early Friday morning expressing support and offering prayers for Lafayette. Not one mentioned gun violence in the state — nor a thought on curbing it.
"There will be time to have discussion on that but I've chosen, at this time, to devote my thinking to the families," said Scott Angelle, a Breaux Bridge native running for the seat Gov. Bobby Jindal will vacate next year.
He offered no insight into when will be the appropriate time to talk about gun violence — only later. Angelle described himself as a pro-gun candidate. His 19-year-old daughter was at the Grand 16 Theatre to see a movie at 1 p.m. Thursday, just hours before 59-year-old John Russel Houser set about his grizzly work.
John Bel Edwards, the only Democrat running for governor, also is a "pro-gun" candidate with an A rating from the National Rifle Association. Louisiana has a problem and "we need to talk about it," but he said that problem is how the state cares for people with flawed mental health.
He summed up it up with an old adage: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."
In 2013, people killed 446 people in Louisiana with with guns, according to statistics collected by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. By body count, that placed Louisiana 7th in the nation. In terms of murders per 100,000 residents — 9.6 — the Bayou State was 1st.
"By the time you add it up, we have a mass killing every month in this state," Mann said. "We need to stand back and look at our problem holistically."
'Anything but the hardware'
On June 17, it's believed 21-year-old Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He has not been tried, but he walked out when nine others didn't, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who also was a state senator.
Roof and his actions overnight became associated with the Confederate battle flag he was seen posing with on social media. Now those and other symbols of the Old South are coming down across the country.
Though that debate still rages, no gun control measures have been seriously discussed in the wake of the South Carolina killings.
After four unarmed marines and a Navy sailor were gunned down at military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Alicia Fuller noticed a rush of servicemen buying firearms. It lasted a couple of days, she said.
Fuller is the office manager at DavTac Custom Arms and Ammo, a seller of new and used firearms in Bossier City. She works there with owner Lee Daville, a south Louisiana native.
When 20 first graders and six educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, the gun debate roared. National lawmakers proposed policy, but former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder summed up the result in a televised interview in February.
"The gun lobby simply won," Holder told MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry.
And according to one researcher who grew up in Newtown, Violence Policy Center executive director Josh Sugarmann, that's just how it goes.
"There is a pattern that all too often takes place after a shooting like this, especially in places like Louisiana," Sugarmann said.
Lawmakers start by delaying the conversation, Sugarmann said , first by setting aside the immediate aftermath as a time to grieve, not play politics, and they make that period last as long as it can. Then, once the dialogue can be put off no longer, he said the conversation becomes about mental health, immigration, criminality, race — anything but guns.
"There is a tendency in the wake of these killings to talk about anything but the hardware used to commit the shooting," Sugarmann said.
The official word on Houser is still out.
Early reports point to mental illness, racist and white supremacist ideology and an Alabama address. Police are reporting only that the weapon was a semi-automatic handgun with two 10-round clips.
Two qualities are common in nearly all mass shootings — semi-automatic functionality and high-capacity magazines. Those features, popular for commercial sale since the 1980s, "created an unfortunately predictable change," Sugarmann said.
"Firepower emboldens people to commit these acts," he said.
Wrong, said Louisiana Shooting Association president Dan Zelenka.
"With drunk driving, did we talk about the cars? No. We talked about the people behind the wheel. We talked about the criminals. It's not about the hardware," Zelenka said. "A criminal will do criminal stuff."
The world is made better by trained citizens lawfully in possession of firearms, Zelenka said. Those citizens in deadly situations involving rogue shooters "maybe won't prevent them, but can shorten the duration of a shooter being able to shoot unmolested."
"I'm not even sure there's something you can do about someone like that unless you identify them beforehand," Zelenka said. "Freedom can cause problems, but the alternative is worse."
"The weakest gun laws in the nation"
Zelenka has a challenge for gun policy reform advocates: go ahead and figure out a way to stop tragedies like Grand 16.
"I can't think of a new Louisiana law that would prevent that," Zelenka said. "If you look at shooters involved in these incidents, few could legally purchase a gun. They can't purchase. They can't possess, but lo and behold they have them."
Some solutions to gun violence, are misguided, Angelle said. It's not smart policy to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.
"Criminals will always have access to guns," he said.
Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence staff attorney Ari Freilich doesn't have all the facts on Grand 16 yet.
"But what I can say is we know this tragedy occurred in the state with the weakest gun laws in the nation," Freilich said.
According to the law center's research, Louisiana does not:
• Require a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between private, unlicensed parties
• Prohibit the transfer or possession of assault weapons, 50-caliber rifles or large capacity ammunition magazines
• Require firearm dealers to obtain a state license
• Require firearm owners to obtain a license or register their firearms
• Limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time
• Impose a waiting period on firearm purchases
• Regulate unsafe handguns ("junk guns" or "Saturday night specials")
• Significantly regulate ammunition sales
• Allow local governments to regulate firearms
• Give law enforcement discretion to deny a concealed handgun permit
Until 2014, the state hadn't reported a single mental health record to the FBI's background check database of dangerous, prohibited individuals, Freilich said. Even now, he said, Louisiana is submitting fewer records than other similarly-sized states.
Background checks have stopped 2.1 million people prohibited from possessing firearms — criminals, domestic abusers, the mentally ill and others — from purchasing weapons, he said.
"It speaks to a lack of commitment, courage and common sense to preventing the next tragic shooting," Freilich said. "Eventually, Louisianians will have to ask themselves if that's the kind of state they want to live in."
Many already have.
Speedy Mercer is secretary treasurer for Louisiana Open Carry Awareness League. He knows the debate is coming to Louisiana and he knows on which side he stands.
In response to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Mercer commented each point would be either likely be a violation of Second Amendment rights or a useless, knee-jerk regulation.
"There will be pushback. We'll be right in the middle of it," he said.
Fuller has a concealed carry permit and carries all the time.
"As long as I'm following the rules, I'm going to carry," she said. "I'm going to protect my friends, my family, and my life. It's my right."
Gubernatorial candidate Edwards said he could get behind laws that improve reporting requirements for mental health patients, and maybe the rest of the state legislature could as well.
"We should discuss it, and I hope we do. I just hope we don't rush to judgment before we have a chance to deliberate," he said.
All together, weak and non-existent gun control in Louisiana comes down to state citizens and the people they elect.
"Politicians are so afraid of the National Rifle Association they don't dare step over that line. Maybe only the oil industry is better at buying legislators," Mann said. "I'm not opposed to prayer. I was praying for Lafayette last night. But if your only solution is looking for divine intervention you probably need to find another line of work."
— Alexandria Burris contributed to this article
Gun-related homicides in 2013
Louisiana: 446 (9.64 per 100,000)
Alabama: 317 (6.56 per 100,000)
District of Columbia: 61 (9.44 per 100,000)
Florida: 816 (4.17 per 100,000)
Michigan: 493 (4.98 per 100,000)
Texas: 912 (3.45 per 100,000)
New York: 380 (1.93 per 100,000)
California: 1,312 (3.42 per 100,000)