Wednesday, October 12, 2005

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Federal officials, responding to complaints from gun-rights groups, yesterday said they were reconsidering a ban on firearms at emergency housing parks built in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“We’ve got attorneys who are looking at that as we speak and they’re trying to figure out who wrote the rules, what the intent was,” Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Butch Kinerney said.

The dispute arose at a nearly 600-trailer encampment that opened last week near Baton Rouge. Katrina evacuees will be allowed to stay there rent-free while they try to find permanent housing. Similar encampments are scattered across the hurricane zone, but this was the first major site to open.

Officials said it has been general policy at FEMA for several years to prohibit guns at such parks anywhere in the country.

The National Rifle Association threatened to sue, and another gun-rights group, the Second Amendment Foundation, said it, too, was looking at legal action.

“Whether it’s a national disaster, whether it’s by nature like Katrina, or a flu pandemic or an earthquake, the Constitution can’t be thrown out the window,” said NRA leader Wayne LaPierre.

He said the NRA was outraged, and he warned that the organization would take its case all the way to Congress and the White House.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office had asked that guns be banned at the encampment because the trailers are close together and have thin walls, said Deputy Fred Raiford.

“If a gun was discharged in any of those trailers, it probably would go through three or four other trailers before it stopped,” Deputy Raiford said.

FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said guns would have been prohibited even without the sheriff’s office request.

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