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Chris W. Cox's Political Report: Surviving Katrina

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

POLITICAL REPORT

CHRIS COX, NRA-ILA Executive Director

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when all else failed, only the Second Amendment withstood the immediate fury of the tragedy. The fundamental right to protect one’s life, loved ones and property yielded not an inch. Not, at least, for those who were prepared to exercise it.

he thin veneer of law and order surrounds us everyday. People who break the rules are pursued by law enforcement and charged with crime if caught. The courts decide their punishment, and the rest of us pay our taxes so we don’t even have to worry about it. That’s law and order, and it’s largely self-sustaining under communal support.

The system works pretty well most of the time. But the moment water spilled over the levees in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, that veneer began to wash away. And within a day, it had disappeared completely under the murky pool that settled over much of the Crescent City.

The restaurant owner told the New York Daily News: “The cops are busy as it is. If more citizens took security and matters into their own hands, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

In those roily waters, the most fundamental instincts of human nature soon surfaced. Most victims of the tragedy seemed driven, understandably, by the most basic of all instincts–survival. But for others, the havoc that descended upon the city provided an outlet for instincts far more sinister–ranging from simple opportunism, to the random expression of pure criminal violence unassociated with financial gain.

The rapid emergence of roving gangs of marauders and murderers surprised even the city authorities. Within a day of the levees breaking, the state governor was forced to order law enforcement to switch their focus away from search-and-rescue missions to quelling the mayhem that had overtaken the city.

Even after the descent of federal troops into the area, lawlessness continued to lurk around every corner, with rescue personnel facing inexplicable murderous attacks, and entire segments of the city still engaged in criminal mayhem well beyond the reach of the law. Snipers fired upon rescuing forces, and emergency personnel required armed escorts to move through the city. Military troops on the ground, many fresh from stints in Iraq, saw inevitable parallels between conditions in some parts of the city and those they had just left behind in Baghdad.

The media finally took notice. The New York Times ran a headline stating “Police and Owners Begin to Challenge Looters.” The story detailed anecdotes of several business owners and homeowners protecting their property and possessions against attack with personally owned firearms.

A gang of thugs confronted one homeowner, demanding the generator in his front yard. Three warning shots later the confrontation was defused. The owner of a nearby restaurant stood guard with a brace of handguns and a 12-gauge shotgun, and “no hesitation about using any of them,” according to the New York Daily News.

The owner told that newspaper “The cops are busy as it is. If more citizens took security and matters into their own hands, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

In sum, when all else failed, only the Second Amendment withstood the fury of the tragedy. The fundamental right to protect one’s life, loved ones and property yielded not an inch. Not, at least, for those who were prepared to exercise it.

I took particular note of a short news item in the New Orleans paper, which ran the day before the storm descended. It covered an annual gun “buyback” effort that had met with less than the expected results. In years past, hundreds of gun owners had turned in firearms for cash or coupons redeemed at local merchants. But two days before the storm, there were few takers on the “buyback” offer. The organizers of the drive were oblivious to the possible reasons that few takers showed up. I have my opinions, and I am sure you do too.

Now the media is aghast at the long lines forming at firearm retailers throughout the Gulf states. It is fascinating to watch the media grapple with the fundamental truths about human nature that the authors of the Second Amendment clearly knew so well.

No doubt thousands of similar stories of self-reliance and armed defense will emerge in the coming days. As Katrina’s survivors mount their armed vigils of self-protection, they know that the thin veneer will eventually be restored, and in the meantime remain confident that the Second Amendment will not fail them.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.