“They can’t do that!” But they did
Looting was rampant, and many citizens who remained in the area wanted to use their firearms to protect themselves.
So I will attempt to maintain a proper decorum, and tell you in a calm and measured way just what has happened to your rights as gun owners.
To all the naysayers, the pseudo-intellectual know-it-alls who smiled knowingly at gun owners and sneered at us behind our backs for being alarmists, rabble rousers and gun nuts when we warned of the necessity of defending the Second Amendment, we have a message.
I unfortunately, with all my like-minded friends and associates now have the questionable pleasure of the world’s largest, loudest “I Told You So…”
In spite of the United States Constitution that guarantees the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment, and the right of the people to be safe and secure within their own homes against unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, government authorities have now, for the first time in the United States, illegally confiscated firearms from law-abiding citizens without due process.
These actions occurred, of course, in the hell that was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the city of New Orleans in the first weeks of September 2005.
In many cases, these authorities forced their way into private residences to order the citizens to leave their homes, and did so with no probable cause and without power of warrant.
These abuses were perpetrated by government authorities such as the New Orleans Police Department, California Highway Patrol, New Mexico State Police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, various state National Guard units, and many others too numerous to name.
They were acting under power of a constitutionally questionable Louisiana statute known as the “Emergency Powers Act.” But they exceeded their powers under the law and abused the rights of and stole property from private, law-abiding citizens.
Want proof? I am amazed at the number of defenders of the actions of the authorities and police that have raised their voices in defense of their totalitarian tactics, or even doubted such activities occurred.
In any controversial incident, there are always the argumentative few who will defend even the most incorrect and/or offensive actions, and that is true here.
So I offer you this web address. Will you believe ABC news? Try this one:
I have yet to show this news clip to any person, gun owner or not, who was not angered by then Chief of the New Orleans Police Department Eddie Compass stating: “No one will be able to be armed. We are going to take all the weapons.”
But if they were angered at the confiscation order, they were outraged at the sight of heavily armed police and National Guard units banging on doors, entering houses without warrants, forcing their way into occupied homes, forcing the occupants outside, handcuffing them and sitting them on the curbs in front of their homes while confiscating their personal firearms.
Frequently, when showed this video, and numerous others of similar vein, the reaction is open-mouthed amazement, and the statement: “They can’t do that!”
But they did.
Many of the so-called police supporters and members of the National Guard units have called in to talk radio and written comments in on-line chat rooms to defend their actions, however ill-conceived and undefined these defenses were.
Many purport to be strong defenders of the police, and use half-truths and innuendo to further their arguments in the same way they accuse the outraged gun owners of doing.
They offer the argument that New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates in the nation, and the police and Guard did not have any way to determine who might or might not shoot them when they came upon an armed citizen, so they had the right to disarm them all.
I wonder where these people have been now that all the exposes have been coming out that said yes, there was the occasional incident of sniping, and yes, on occasion some cops were shot at, and one actually was killed by a looter/criminal. One.
But the stories of mass sniping, and all the rapes and murders in the Superdome and Convention Center were simply a part of a media feeding frenzy incited by none other than Compass and Mayor Ray Nagin.
These two individuals took hearsay and elevated it to a new art form before passing it on to the national media, who lapped it up, digested it and passed it on to a hungry audience mesmerized by the magnitude of the event and the suffering it caused.
If you would like a true, incisive look at the Katrina incident, read historian David Brinkley’s seminal book on the hurricane and its aftermath, “The Great Deluge.”
It will open your eyes about what actually went on. Yes, there was incredible suffering. Yes, there was misery, incompetence and outright callous disregard for human rights — and the looting was far, far worse than the media ever reported — but you didn’t take your very life in your hands by putting on a uniform and walking the street or getting in a boat to rescue people.
That was a perfect example of self-aggrandizement by law enforcement, trying to make their jobs seem life-threatening and dangerous. A cop’s job is just that — at times. But New Orleans wasn’t, and isn’t Baghdad.
And the same rules of engagement shouldn’t have applied.
Were the area as dangerous as it was purported to be, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Coast Guard and many heroic individuals would not have been able to save thousands of lives in their boats and helicopters.
They didn’t stand around worrying about snipers, or whether some small, frail woman on Magazine Street possessed a revolver. They simply got out there and got it done. And there was not a single incident of a LDWF officer or Coast Guard member being shot or even wounded by hostile fire.
Let’s get something straight here and now.
There was no martial law in New Orleans. In fact, such terminology does not exist in Louisiana statutory law. There was a mandatory evacuation order, a power available to the governor or a mayor (although the mayor’s powers are more limited than those of the governor) assigned by the state constitution under the Emergency Powers Act.
In this act there are vaguely worded statements about limiting the sale and possession of alcohol, explosives and firearms during the time of a designated emergency.
Martial law, on the other hand, is a situation under which the federal military assumes command of a community or area, supercedes legal authority, and runs the local government, assuming the powers of the civil government, the local courts and police powers — the power of arrest.
In addition, the incorporation of martial law has been historically defined as the suspension of the rule of habeas corpus — the right of every person arrested to face his accuser and be brought to a speedy trial. With the military in charge, they can hold anyone without trial until such time as the emergency is declared over.
Historically, it has been assumed only the president can call for martial law, and in fact it has been actually enacted only a few times in the nation’s history. In all cases, Congress has oversight of the actions of the president, and can tacitly approve of his actions by doing nothing, calling a vote in support of his actions, as in the case of President Lincoln, in 1863, when he suspended the act of habeas corpus and declared martial law in the Union, or Congress can vote to cancel the actions of the president.
This did not happen in New Orleans. The Louisiana National Guard was there under the auspices of the State of Louisiana. They can assume types of law-enforcement powers granted by the governor. But when the 82nd Airborne Division arrived on site, they had no powers of arrest, or the right to use deadly force.
Under the Posse Comitatus Act passed by Congress in 1878, the U.S. military may not be used in this country as police, but can, under strict rules promulgated by Congress, assist the legal authorities.
This is the very reason the government has never been able to place the U.S. military on our borders to protect it against drug smuggling — such an action violates the aforementioned act, and would require an act of Congress to accomplish such a mission.
Under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, citizens have the right to stay safe in their homes with no fear of intrusion by civil authorities without a warrant developed and brought for signing to a member of the judiciary with proof of probable cause.
The NOPD, their supporting agencies from around the country and the National Guard abused their power under this order, entered private homes without permission or probable cause, manhandled private citizens and confiscated legally owned firearms from citizens and from homes they forcibly and illegally entered.
The mandatory evacuation order given by Mayor Nagin did not give the police the right to forcibly evacuate someone from his property. It might have (and that’s a big “might” that will have to be tested in court) given them the right to forcibly evacuate someone they found outside their residences, off their property.
Two Louisiana lawyers — one a specialist in civil law, and the other a noted expert on the Louisiana Constitution — stated to me that the Emergency Powers Act has some serious constitutional issues, and both also said that issuing the mandatory evacuation order is basically a way to cover the respective behinds of the state and the local governing authority (i.e. New Orleans) from fear of legal retribution.
In other words, this is the “We Told You So” act. You stay after we warned you it was dangerous and you should leave, and you can’t sue us or blame us if you get hurt.
Hey! This is the United States. One of the great freedoms of this country, envied all over the world, is the right to be stupid if you want to be. It’s your life and your home. You have the right to insist on staying, just don’t complain later you weren’t warned.
I submit, having interviewed numerous survivors of the aftermath of Katrina, the NOPD and LNG did not confiscate the weapons or forcibly evacuate anyone who stood up to them and told them they were not allowed in their homes, and they would meet with resistance if they tried to enter. And yes, numerous people did exactly that. And boy, did it tee off the police, who would frequently return to harass, and apparently hope to catch these rebellious sorts off their property where they could be snatched up and evacuated forcibly.
Now, Superintendent Warren Riley (who was elevated to that position after Eddie Compass “resigned”) has done it again. In an interview with New Orleans radio station WWL on Friday, June 2, he was asked to comment on the new statute that makes it illegal in Louisiana for civil authorities to confiscate personally-owned firearms during a declared emergency.
The bill is House Bill 760, authored by Rep. Stephen Scalise. This statute was a direct response to the tactics of the police in the aftermath of Katrina, and was written to clarify the vague language in the Emergency Powers Act that allowed the anarchistic behavior of some cops and NG units. The bill had cleared both houses of the Louisiana legislature at the time of the interview, and was headed to Governor Blanco’s desk for her signature before becoming state law.
Riley stated: “During circumstances like that, we cannot allow people to walk the streets carrying guns. As law enforcement officers, we will confiscate the weapon if the person is walking down the street, and they may be arrested.”
In other words, he is stating in no uncertain terms the NOPD is prepared again to violate the law because they think they are right. This is a mindset common in paramilitary circles — the end justifies the means. Any action that results in achieving the objective is acceptable — or to put it more succinctly, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Riley then said officers would not again enter people’s homes to seize weapons — an obvious admittance that what occurred before was illegal.
So be prepared out there. If you live in the city of New Orleans, and there is another declared emergency, it does not matter that Louisiana is an open-carry state.
It doesn’t matter if you have a concealed carry license, or that your vehicle is a constitutionally-protected entity just like your home. Get caught with a firearm, and even though a new state statute specifically prohibits their doing so, the authorities are going to again take your guns.
Only this time, write down the serial number, and demand a receipt.
NOTE: Gordon Hutchinson’s best-selling novel, The Quest and the Quarry, a generational tale that parallels the lives of a line of trophy bucks with the youth of a farming family and their hunts for them, can be ordered at: www.thequestandthequarry.com, or by calling (800) 538-4355.
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