Tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Pacific, Fox News will air a one-hour special on Hurricane Katrina as the 10th anniversary of that disaster looms, and you can bet that many of the Second Amendment advocates who lived through the unconstitutional New Orleans gun grab following the storm will be watching.
Indeed, the gun seizures in the hurricane’s aftermath created quite a few Second Amendment converts. Their outrage turned to activism, to make sure that what happened in New Orleans can never happen again on American soil.
Recently, as noted yesterday by U.S. News, Fox reporter Shepard Smith, whose gripping coverage of the disaster held the nation’s attention for days, opened up about his experiences and shared some thoughts about the storm and its aftermath. What he had to say ten years after the fact included searing criticism of the officials in charge at the time, and their leadership failures.
The hurricane actually missed the Crescent City, but its effects hammered the entire region. The levee was ruptured, water flowed in, people died, there was chaos and what was one of the first emergency measures that the administration of then-Mayor Ray Nagin – now doing time in federal prison on corruption charges – enacted? A no-guns policy, announced by then-Police Chief Eddie Compass. Nagin, a Democrat, was a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns as noted last year by the National Rifle Association in a report about his incarceration, one of several members of that Michael Bloomberg-created organization to wind up in trouble with the law.
What happened next was historic. The NRA and Second Amendment Foundation joined forces and filed a federal lawsuit to stop the illegal gun confiscations. That had never happened before, because it had never before been necessary. Deniers insisted there had been no confiscations, but as recalled later by attorney Stephen Halbrook, who represented NRA, SAF and one individual plaintiff along with local attorney Daniel Holliday, there was a “breakdown of law and order” following the hurricane and “law-abiding citizens were left on their own…”
At a time when those citizens needed a gun the most, guns were seized by the bushel, sometimes at gunpoint. “Defendants responded to this crisis in part by ordering that the law-abiding citizens be disarmed, leaving them at the mercy of roving gangs, home invaders, and other criminals,” Halbrook wrote.
The gun seizures probably will not be a big part of tonight’s special, if they are even mentioned at all. But those who experienced it, and those who battled it in court will never forget.
If you have memories of Hurricane Katrina, share them below.
In their book detailing the chaos, “The Great New Orleans Gun Grab,” authors Gordon Hutchinson and Todd Masson detailed the events. That book is still available at Amazon.com and it should be required reading for anybody who insists that “it can never happen here.” In the weeks and months following the disaster, both NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and SAF founder and EVP Alan Gottlieb had many opportunities to tell reporters and audiences that “It can happen here and it did happen here.”
New Orleans officials denied repeatedly that no guns had been seized, and that no such guns were in the city’s possession. This dragged on for months until Halbrook, Holliday, the NRA and SAF had had enough and moved for contempt against the city. Just before the hearing, the city’s attorney – as recalled in Halbrook’s reflections – “offered to allow plaintiffs’ counsel to inspect firearms being held by the police and to enter into negotiations to establish a procedure for owners to claim their firearms.”
The two attorneys were taken to a police facility where they estimated that some 1,100 firearms were stored in a trailer and a moving truck. Many were damaged beyond repair, having rusted and corroded over the months in storage.
What happened in New Orleans spurred NRA to successfully lobby many state legislatures to pass laws that prohibit firearms seizures during or after disasters. SAF sued successfully against a North Carolina law that banned guns and ammunition outside the home during a declared emergency.
The tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall is next Saturday, Aug. 29. It will not be marked by a festive celebration, but perhaps by a day of reflection. New Orleans has recovered, and there has been a marked change in leadership, in the city and the governor’s office.
Katrina taught a lot of people a lot of things, not the least of which is that in a natural – or even man-made – disaster, you are almost certain to be on your own, at least for some period of time. At such a time, one may find himself at the mercy of looters and other criminals who don’t know the meaning of mercy. But, like criminal predators anywhere, they do understand the muzzle of a gun.
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