The Second Amendment unquestionably protects the right of individual Americans to own firearms. Thankfully, most gun-owners are never forced to defend themselves, their families, their homes. But during an emergency or disaster, when police protection breaks down like it did in the chaos in New Orleans that followed Hurricane Katrina, lawfully owned firearms may be the only effective means of protection.
In the days following Katrina, when police and other first responders where overwhelmed and overstretched ... when the failure of telephone and other communication systems prevented so many from calling for help ... the police began seizing legal firearms from law-abiding citizens. This gun confiscation defied common sense as well as the rights protected by the Second Amendment ... and it left many ordinary Americans defenseless at the worst possible time.
That's why I'm proud to say that the Homeland Security legislation passed by the Senate last night includes a much-needed amendment offered by my colleague, Louisiana Senator David Vitter. This amendment specifically prohibits the temporary or permanent seizure of lawfully owned firearms just because a state of emergency has been declared. The amendment overwhelming passed the Senate by a vote of 86 to 14 ... and I don't have to tell you that all 14 of its opponents were Democrats.
I will support keeping Senator Vitter's proposal in the final bill that is sent to the President. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of Katrina ... and prohibiting gun confiscation from lawful citizens -- especially during periods of emergency and disaster -- is an important step in the right direction.
Senator Bill Frist, M.D.
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate