Saturday, September 10, 2005

Firearms and Emergencies

It seems that in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans police are confiscating every private firearm in sight (except those owned by private security forces, but let's not go there).

There's just a small problem... It's blatantly illegal:

I realize that there are plausible arguments that the house-to-house break-ins and gun-point confiscations violate the Second, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as numerous provisions of the Louisiana Constitution, including the right to arms. Indeed, the confiscations are inconsistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and with natural law. But my point is much more specific. The particular Louisiana statute which allows emergency controls on firearms also clearly disallows the complete prohibition being imposed by the New Orleans chief of police.

He continues by analyzing the specific statute being invoked, and pointing out that:

The emergency statute creates authority for "prohibiting" some things, and for "regulating" other things. The statute uses "prohibiting" in subsections (A)4, 5, and 9. The statute uses "regulating" in sections (A)3, 6, 7, and 8. Quite clearly the legislature meant to distinguish "prohibiting" authority from "regulating" authority. In the context of the statute, it is not plausible to claim that "prohibiting" means the same as "regulating."

"Prohibiting" authority applies to the sale of alcohol, presence on public streets, and the sale of goods or services at excessive prices. "Regulating" authority applies to firearms, flammable materials, and sound devices (such as megaphones). The "regulating" authority is undoubtedly broad. But it is not equivalent to "prohibiting." The statute does not authorize the New Orleans Police--abetted by the National Guard and the U.S. Marshalls--to break into homes, point guns at people, and confiscate every single private firearm--or every single private bullhorn or private cigarette lighter.

Yet New Orleans' lawless superintendant of police, P. Edwin Compass, has declared, "No one is allowed to be armed. We're going to take all the guns."

All I have to say is that there had better be an investigation into the legality of this search and seizure of private property. I'm wary of this sort of thing generally, but people should be allowed the means to protect themselves, especially at a time when the police have proven unequal to the task.


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