As the U.S. Virgin Islands braced for Hurricane Irma to make landfall, Gov. Kenneth Mapp on Tuesday authorized the National Guard to confiscate privately owned guns and ammunition, and any property it might need to respond to the disaster. This development is both unbelievably shortsighted, and wrong. Gov. Mapp’s emergency order is subject to approval by the justice department of the U.S. Virgin Islands and comes alongside assurances from President Donald Trump that every resource needed will be available to the territory.
Time after time during natural disasters, reports of looting and increased armed criminal action have been reported. The primary reason for firearms purchases is to protect self and loved ones, and this is especially important at times when the police are overtaxed and crimes of opportunity are more likely to occur. Natural disasters offer criminals an opening too sweet to resist—and once an individual or group of marauders is at your door, it’s too late to ask the National Guard for your guns back.
Knowledge that police can’t be everywhere at once is a primary reason Second Amendment supporters own guns.We saw report after report of Americans, appropriately dubbed the Cajun Navy, using private boats to rescue their neighbors and strangers from rising floodwaters in Houston because there are simply not enough police and rescue personnel to go around. Knowledge that police can’t be everywhere at once is a primary reason Second Amendment supporters own guns.
If the Virgin Islands gun confiscation scheme stems from a real lack of resources needed to protect law and order, that is an indictment of the governor, public safety officers and everyone else in government in that territory. It is unconscionable that there wouldn’t be enough ammunition available to peacekeepers for a scenario like this. Is this the first hurricane ever to hit the Virgin Islands? Isn’t hurricane preparation an endeavor at which the jurisdiction should excel?
As has been pointed out before, legal gun owners are among the most law-abiding citizens found anywhere. Leaving their guns under their own control is not only the best decision—it’s the only legal one. When rioting broke out in Ferguson, Mo., it was law-abiding Americans with private firearms that stood between looters and businesses.
Just the opposite was true in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that the only guns allowed would be “in the hands of law enforcement.” Guns were confiscated with disastrous results: Utter lawlessness ensued, and the police were spread too thin to respond to all the mayhem. Before total gun removal was completed, the NRA stepped in, first gaining a preliminary injunction and then an order putting a stop to the ill-conceived plan. The sheriff had to return more than 1,000 firearms to their respective owners.
Instead of fearfully overreacting by taking guns from law-abiding citizens, the U.S. Virgin Islands should look to Florida for its handling of emergency powers relating to the right to bear arms.Attorney Stephen P. Halbrook, speaking on the Katrina confiscations, said: “NRA's causes of action include infringement of the right to keep and bear arms, deprivation of liberty and property without due process, violation of equal protection, and unreasonable search and seizure.” Indeed, to take a lawfully owned gun when a crime hasn’t been committed is a violation of the Second Amendment.
Instead of fearfully overreacting by taking guns from law-abiding citizens, the U.S. Virgin Islands should look to Florida for its handling of emergency powers relating to the right to bear arms. A permit is required to carry a concealed firearm in Florida. However, Senate Bill 290, passed in 2015, created an exception to that law, permitting adults to carry a concealed firearm during an emergency evacuation for up to 48 hours after issuance of an evacuation order. Note that the law only applies to those who are not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm—SB 290 does not grant felons the right to carry concealed.
Passage of that law speaks volumes to the citizens of the Sunshine State—they can be certain that their elected officials want them to be orderly, prepared and protected from the menace of robbery, rape and assault during an already stressful situation. The knowledge that potential victims could be carrying concealed firearms is an excellent preventative measure for those aforementioned criminals who invariably try their hand at mayhem when people are solely focused on survival and recovery.
The immediate reaction to the U.S. Virgin Islands confiscation announcement has been swift and sure, prompting NRA Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris W. Cox to offer: "People need the ability to protect themselves during times of natural disaster. This dangerous order violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts their lives at risk.”
He couldn’t be more correct.
Stacy Washington is a decorated Air Force veteran, Emmy-nominated TV personality and host of nationally syndicated radio program “Stacy on the Right,” based in St. Louis. She loves God and guns, and is a member of the NRA, obviously.