As we have often reported, in the wake of the illegal gun confiscations in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, NRA focused its attention on legislation to amend existing emergency-powers statutes to guarantee that local authorities never again attempt the confiscation of lawfully owned firearms during states of emergency.
As you know, following Hurricane Katrina, many New Orleans residents legally armed themselves to protect their lives and property from civil disorder. With no way to call for help, and police unable to respond, lawful citizens were able to defend themselves and their neighbors against looters, arsonists and other criminals.
However, just when these people needed their guns for self-protection the most, New Orleans’s Police Superintendent ordered the confiscation of firearms, allegedly under a state emergency-powers law. Fortunately, an NRA lawsuit brought an end to the seizures, and subsequent NRA-backed legislation ensured the gun confiscation travesty would not repeat itself.
Unfortunately, many states have “emergency powers” laws that give the government permission to suspend or limit gun sales, and to prohibit or restrict citizens from transporting or carrying firearms. In some states, authorities are authorized to seize guns outright from citizens who’ve committed no crime, and who would then be defenseless against disorder.
Within the past few weeks, a state of emergency was declared in King, North Carolina following a relatively heavy snowstorm. As a result of the emergency declaration, local residents were banned from carrying firearms in their vehicles.
Entering into the fray this week was Bill O’Reilly, host of The O’Reilly Factor, on Fox News.
In a February 18, interview that discussed, in part, the confiscation of legally-owned guns during a declared state of emergency (as was the case in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina), O’Reilly affirmed his support of such confiscations.
When it was explained to O’Reilly that whether or not there’s a state of emergency, it’s still unconstitutional to confiscate lawfully-owned guns from honest citizens wanting to defend themselves, the Fox talking head retorts, “That’s a pretty extreme position.”
Perhaps in your opinion, Bill. But for most law-abiding Americans, the notion that the government can suspend the Constitution and leave citizens without the most effective means of self-defense just because of a snowstorm or hurricane -- well, that would qualify as an extreme position.
Of course, no one condones the mindless violence of those who would loot a helpless city, or shoot at rescue workers. But one reason for the citizens to retain a legal right to arms, is precisely because the government has no legal duty to protect them. Legislative bodies can, and should, act to protect the self-defense rights of citizens at the times when those rights are most important.
NRA-ILA was instrumental in passing H.R. 5013--the “Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act,”--federal legislation to protect gun owners’ rights during emergencies. And we continue to fight for state legislation to do the same. NRA-ILA has successfully passed Emergency Powers legislation in 28 states since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and we will not rest until we reform all emergency powers laws to prohibit these types of arbitrary attacks on Second Amendment rights.