Thursday, September 22, 2005

Two national gun rights groups yesterday joined individual Louisiana gun owners in a federal lawsuit to stop authorities from confiscating firearms from private citizens in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the seizures of guns from law-abiding citizens. They described the confiscations as “arbitrary,” “without warrant or probable cause” and thus “illegal.”

New Orleans Police Superintendent P. Edwin Compass III “completely overstepped his bounds … when he announced two weeks ago in the New York Times that only law-enforcement personnel are allowed to have weapons,” Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the 3-million member NRA said in an interview yesterday.

The police superintendent’s comments were echoed by the city’s Deputy Police Chief Warren Riley, who told ABC News: “No one will be able to be armed. We are going to take all the weapons.”

SAF founder Alan Gottlieb called the gun seizures “outrageous” and “illegal.” He said New Orleans officials have refused to tell gun rights groups why they are now leaving citizens, already devastated by the Category 4 hurricane, “defenseless against lingering bands of looters and thugs.”

They “left us with no recourse” but litigation, Mr. Gottlieb said.

Mr. LaPierre noted TV news coverage showing law-enforcement personnel going door-to-door to seize guns from New Orleans-area residents — an action he said is unprecedented in U.S. history. The NRA official said he’s talked to “hundreds of people who are enraged” about the new policy.

Given the lawlessness in New Orleans, residents who remain in the storm-ravaged area there need their guns for protection, said Mr. LaPierre.

“Things are worse at night, and people say their gun is the only source of comfort they have, the one thing they can depend on to save themselves and their families,” Mr. LaPierre said, noting that a “third of the New Orleans Police Department walked off their jobs” during the Katrina emergency.

“In fact, the Second Amendment has really been the underpinning for [New Orleans] citizens to stay alive,” he said.

Opponents of private gun ownership often say that public safety is their goal, “but in New Orleans, there was a complete collapse of government’s ability to protect anyone,” Mr. LaPierre said. “Citizens could only count on the looters, robbers and rapists.”

Attempts to reach the New Orleans Police Department yesterday about its gun confiscation policy were unsuccessful.

Plaintiffs in the suit against the City of New Orleans are two local gun owners. One, whom Mr. LaPierre identified as Buell Teel, was on a boat rescuing people. “To protect himself, he had a firearm on the boat,” which police saw and seized, Mr. LaPierre said.

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