Fairfax, VA – -(Ammoland.com)- With hurricane season now upon us, U.S. states and territories are preparing for a barrage of potentially extreme and damaging weather.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), however, those preparations include an order by Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp for the National Guard to seize residents’ lawfully-owned firearms and ammunition, ostensibly as a means of promoting public order and protecting life and property.
Certainly, the rest of America’s thoughts and prayers are with the USVI as Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, closes in on the Caribbean. Nevertheless, the scope of Gov. Mapp’s order is a shocking incursion on the right of the U.S. citizens who reside on the USVI to protect themselves from the all-too-predictable outbreaks of looting and crime that can occur when normal emergency services are over-taxed by an extraordinary event. The order, simply put, violates the U.S. Constitution and threatens to put innocent people at further risk.
The order states in no uncertain terms that the Adjutant General of the U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard is “authorized and directed to seize arms, ammunition, explosives, incendiary material and any other property” deemed necessary to the mission of maintaining or restoring order during the storm.
America has seen similar overreaches in the past, most notoriously during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when local officials ordered the confiscation of lawfully-owned firearms from New Orleans residents. First responders had been overwhelmed by the demands of the storm, and those who had not managed to evacuate were dealing with virtual anarchy.
The NRA intervened in federal court and was able to halt the confiscations and obtain an order requiring the return of the seized firearms. Nevertheless, the city delayed compliance with the order for as long as it could, including requiring unrealistic documentation from gun owners whose lives had been turned upside by the storm. Only in 2008 did the NRA and the city agree on mutually acceptable terms for the return of the unlawfully confiscated property.
The NRA also promoted legislation to prevent government officials from using their emergency powers as a pretext for disarming the citizenry. In 2006, Congressman Bobby Jindal (LA) led the fight to protect America’s gun owners against these abuses by introducing H.R. 5013 in the House, a final version of which was signed by President George W. Bush in October of that year. Now codified at 42 U.S.C. § 5207, the law 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 during a state of emergency. The majority of U.S. states now have similar laws.
The application of U.S. law to the USVI can present complicated legal issues, but the bottom line is that Gov. Mapp’s order infringes on the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens. For many gun owners, the shocking site of a frail woman being slammed to the ground in her own home by police enforcing the post-Katrina order remains an indelible image of the very sort of violent firearm seizures that some claim could never happen in the U.S.
The NRA is therefore prepared to engage as necessary to ensure that Gov. Mapp’s overreaching order is reversed so that residents of the USVI have all legal tools available to weather the storm, including their lawfully-owned, constitutionally-protected arms.
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. Visit: www.nra.org