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A Decade Later, Remember New Orleans … Gun Confiscation Can (and Has) Happened in America

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Decade Later, Remember New Orleans … Gun Confiscation Can (and Has) Happened in America

August 29th marks the 10-year anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, La. The memory of the devastation wrought by the storm and the resulting chaos is a human tragedy of such a vast scale that it endures to this day; and will well beyond. Further, the measures taken to disarm law-abiding firearm owners in Katrina’s wake should serve as a testament to why gun owners guard our right to bear arms so vigilantly.

The disorder of the storm’s aftermath – and the inability of local law enforcement to contain it – brought into stark realization the importance of the right to keep and bear arms in order to provide for the defense of oneself, loved ones, and community. Stories of looting and violence abounded. A police chief described post-Katrina New Orleans by stating, "it was like Mogadishu.”

Despite their inability to cope with the resulting mayhem, several days after the storm passed New Orleans officials ordered the confiscation of lawfully-owned firearms from city residents. In a September 8, 2005 article, the New York Times described the scene, stating, “Local police officers began confiscating weapons from civilians in preparation for a forced evacuation of the last holdouts still living here… Police officers and federal law enforcement agents scoured the city carrying assault rifles seeking residents who have holed up to avoid forcible eviction.”

As reported by the Washington Post, New Orleans Superintendent P. Edwin Compass made clear, "No one will be able to be armed,” and, “Guns will be taken. Only law enforcement will be allowed to have guns." At the time, NRA Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre noted the nature of the seizures, stating, "In many cases, it was from their homes at gunpoint. There were no receipts given or anything else at a time when there was no 911 response and these citizens were out there on their own protecting their families."

City authorities were selective with their order, discriminating against the most vulnerable. The Times noted that the city’s order “apparently does not apply to the hundreds of security guards whom businesses and some wealthy individuals have hired to protect their property… Mr. Compass said that he was aware of the private guards but that the police had no plans to make them give up their weapons.” In 2005 Ray Nagin served as the mayor of New Orleans. Nagin would go on to become a member of Michael Bloomberg’s Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns, and later federal inmate No. 32751-034, following 2014 convictions for fraud and bribery.

In the years that followed, New Orleans officials were unrepentant. In a 2006 interview with local radio station WWL, New Orleans Superintendent Warren Riley said, “During a circumstance like that, we cannot allow people to walk the street carrying guns…as law enforcement officers we will confiscate the weapon if a person is walking down the street and they may be arrested.”

NRA immediately denounced the confiscations as unlawful under state law and unconstitutional, and set to work rectifying New Orleans’ abuse of power and ensuring that no American would be faced with confiscation under a similar scenario.

NRA promptly filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against New Orleans in order to halt the city’s confiscation efforts. On September 23, Judge Jay Zainey granted a temporary restraining order barring New Orleans and the surrounding communities from further confiscations, and required that the seized guns be returned. NRA also successfully worked to lift a ban on firearm possession for those living in Federal Emergency Management Agency housing as a result of the storm.

The city dragged its feet in returning confiscated firearms to their lawful owners. However, NRA persisted until 2008, when NRA and New Orleans came to a settlement in which the city agreed to carry out an acceptable procedure for returning the firearms. The agreement allowed owners to get back their guns without documented proof of ownership, which many residents were understandably unable to provide.

NRA’s post-Katrina efforts did not stop at the Louisiana border. NRA prompted mayors and police chiefs across America to sign a pledge stating that they will, “never forcibly disarm the law-abiding citizens” of their city. Further, NRA worked to limit the power of state and local governments to regulate firearms in times of emergency, by advocating for emergency powers reform legislation throughout the country. Currently, over half of the states have some form of emergency powers provision protecting gun owners from government abuse during a crisis.

In 2006, moreover, President George W. Bush signed into law the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which contained an NRA-backed amendment sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). The amendment prohibits persons acting under color of federal law, receiving federal funds, or acting at the direction of a federal employee from seizing or authorizing the seizure of lawfully-possessed firearms or imposing or enforcing certain restrictions on firearms during a state of emergency.


Having gone through such a horrific ordeal, in the years after Katrina New Orleans residents exhibited a greater appreciation for their right to bear arms. The number of Right-to-Carry permit holders in the city doubled from 2004 to 2006. In reporting the experience of Vivian Westerman, a sixty-four-year-old that stayed in her home during Katrina, the Associated Press noted that, “So terrible was [Katrina] that [Westerman] wanted two things before the next hurricane season arrived: a backup power source and a gun.” Westerman told the AP that after purchasing a .38-revolver, “I’ve never been more confident.” In September 2008, when Hurricane Gustav threatened the city, the New York Post reported that those remaining in the city were “locked & loaded,” and detailed the stories of several armed residents.

As we remember the terrible devastation of Katrina, gun owners should further commit themselves to ensuring that Americans are never again deprived of the ability to defend themselves in their hour of need. A decade later, Wayne LaPierre’s words following Katrina are still as relevant as ever, “The lesson of New Orleans is that citizens must be able to rely on their own ability to survive. The answer once and for all to politicians who say Americans don’t need the Second Amendment, government will protect you, the answer forever more is New Orleans.”

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Washington: Anti-Gun Group Announces 2019 Agenda

Friday, December 7, 2018

Washington: Anti-Gun Group Announces 2019 Agenda

On December 5th, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a group backed by out-of-state elites, announced it will pursue its most extreme anti-gun legislative agenda to date during the upcoming 2019 Washington Legislative Session.

More Proof That Being a “Celebrity” Does Not Make You Smart

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

More Proof That Being a “Celebrity” Does Not Make You Smart

In a November 30 tweet, Tom Arnold, famous for being married to Roseanne Barr and making a few really bad movies, has proven that he knows nothing about guns, gun owners or firearm misuse.

Guns and Taxes

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Guns and Taxes

David Hogg wants a federal tax on firearms and ammunition. He has repeatedly broached the idea, including multiple times on Twitter, and only sometimes suggests a use for the tax revenue. Hogg’s tweets on a ...

Stealing Rights and Property in Steel City? Pittsburgh Reportedly Considering Sweeping Gun Control

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Stealing Rights and Property in Steel City? Pittsburgh Reportedly Considering Sweeping Gun Control

The NRA has received copies of what are reported to be draft ordinances being considered by the Pittsburgh City Council to enact sweeping gun control measures within the city.

Checks and Balances? Massachusetts Executive Branch Flouts Court Orders on Firearms Licenses

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Checks and Balances? Massachusetts Executive Branch Flouts Court Orders on Firearms Licenses

The U.S.’s republican form of governance is predicated on co-equal branches of government that check and balance each other in order to preserve individual liberty. The system does not work when one branch simply ignores ...

Surprise: Study Finds No Rise in Violent Crime Attributable to Adopting Right-to-Carry Laws

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Surprise: Study Finds No Rise in Violent Crime Attributable to Adopting Right-to-Carry Laws

As we’ve noted recently, much research purporting to demonstrate connections between access to guns or right-to-carry laws and increases in crime is seriously flawed.  Often it's an attempt to curtail or eliminate Americans’ rights under the Second ...

Warning to New Mexico Gun Owners: Expect Unprecedented Attacks On Your Second Amendment Rights During The 2019 Legislative Session

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Warning to New Mexico Gun Owners: Expect Unprecedented Attacks On Your Second Amendment Rights During The 2019 Legislative Session

While the New Mexico Legislature will not convene for its 60-day Regular Session until January 15, lawmakers can start prefiling bills on December 17. 

Levi’s Teams with Billionaire Michael Bloomberg to Attack Gun Rights

News  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Levi’s Teams with Billionaire Michael Bloomberg to Attack Gun Rights

Levi Strauss & Co. established its brand in the mid-19th century by selling durable clothing to working-class Americans. As Levi’s signature jeans gained popularity amongst a wider set in the middle of the last century, ...

Engineering Professor Shares Thoughts on Constitutional Law, Calls for Handgun Ban

News  

Friday, November 30, 2018

Engineering Professor Shares Thoughts on Constitutional Law, Calls for Handgun Ban

In a recent piece for the Bangor Daily News ironically titled, “Why banning handguns makes sense,” Associate University of Maine Electrical Engineering Professor George Elliott struggled to argue why the tools of self-defense have no ...

Anti-Gun Researchers Undermine the Anti-Gun Narrative

News  

Friday, November 30, 2018

Anti-Gun Researchers Undermine the Anti-Gun Narrative

We have good news from a joint effort between the Violence Prevention Research Program at the UC Davis School of Medicine and the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins University.  

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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.