Friday, September 23, 2005

The U.S. District Court of the Eastern District in Louisiana yesterday sided with gun rights groups and issued a restraining order to stop authorities from confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This is a significant victory for freedom and for the victims of Hurricane Katrina,” said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the 3 million-member National Rifle Association.

“The court’s ruling is instant relief for victims who now have an effective means of defending themselves from the robbers and rapists who seek to further exploit the remnants of their shattered lives.”

The federal court’s ruling came just one day after the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation jointly filed a motion to halt the seizures of firearms from private citizens who are not breaking the law.

The groups described the action by the New Orleans Police Department as “arbitrary,” “without warrant or probable cause,” and thus unconstitutional.

Mr. LaPierre said the NRA has evidence that as many as 100 guns were seized from New Orleans residents by armed police, who went door-to-door in different neighborhoods. An exact count is not available, he said, as New Orleans typically confiscated the guns without providing any paperwork.

He said the NRA learned about the policy two weeks ago from statements made by top New Orleans police officials in reports in the New York Times and ABC News.

Given the lawlessness that pervaded New Orleans after the damage wreaked by Katrina and her floodwaters, Police Superintendent P. Edwin Compass III was quoted as saying only law-enforcement personnel would be allowed to have weapons.

Mr. LaPierre said this was unfair, given that New Orleans police were unable to control crime in that city after Katrina, and citizens were rendered defenseless without their guns.

Two plaintiffs in the lawsuit were private citizens whose guns had been seized, Mr. LaPierre said.

After yesterday’s court ruling, the NRA’s chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox said: “This is an important victory. But the battle is not over. The NRA will remedy emergency statutes in all 50 states, if needed, to ensure that this injustice does not happen again.”

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