Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Is it possible – or even imaginable – that in the United States of America, police could go door to door and confiscate citizens’ legally owned firearms?
To many, such a concern is conspiratorial and evidence of paranoia. They might be surprised to learn that not only has outright gun confiscation of legally purchased weapons already occurred in a major way in the U.S., but public officials in some areas are right now attempting to pass legislation to allow more of the same.
Mayor Leigh Dollar says that in case of an emergency or crisis, she wants police officers to have the authority to “disarm individuals, if necessary.”
“We are not trying to infringe upon anyone constitutional rights whatsoever,” she says. “It’s just to protect the workers working out there in a disaster.”
The ordinance is up for debate at the city council meeting next week.
Such blatant grabs for guns are not new in the U.S. Less than a year ago, the Second Amendment Foundation fought a court battle over a North Carolina regulation that banned firearms and ammunition outside the home during any declared emergency, and won.
And just days ago, it was revealed that a provision in a new Washington-state gun-control bill was so draconian that even its sponsors backtracked or denied any knowledge of it when they were confronted about it.
As Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat reported , the “Orwellian” measure would allow the county sheriff to inspect the homes of owners of so-called “assault weapons” to ensure the weapons were stored properly.
In the post-Newtown debate, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke speaks for many of the nation’s sheriffs in saying such firearms seizure plans are flat-out unconstitutional and they won’t enforce them.
“The people in Milwaukee County do not have to worry about me enforcing some sort of order that goes out and collects everybody’s handgun, or rifles, or any kind of firearm and makes them turn them in,” he told radio talker Alex Jones. “The reason is I don’t want to get shot, because I believe that if somebody tried to enforce something of that magnitude, you would see the second coming of an American Revolution, the likes of which would make the first revolution pale by comparison.”
Is such a scenario even imaginable in the United States of America – the scene of officers pounding on your door, or worse yet, inside your home throwing you up against a wall and pounding on you because happen to have a legally owned weapon for self-defense?
Although many Americans don’t know it, that is exactly what happened in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Thousands of weapons – legally obtained and owned – were simply grabbed from citizens after New Orleans Police Superintendent P. Edwin Compass III announced, “Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons.” Just to make sure the message was loud and clear, the city’s Deputy Police Chief Warren Riley told ABC News: “No one will be able to be armed. We are going to take all the weapons.”
Then they did exactly that.
One man at a post-Katrina meeting assembled in conjunction with the National Rifle Association said, “The bottom line is this. Once they did it, they set a precedent. And what we’ve got to be sure [of] is that the precedent stops here.”
In a series of videos, the NRA has documented the stunning weapons grab by police in New Orleans, assembling videos that show them physically taking weapons from individuals, including one woman who was stunned when officers threw her against her kitchen wall because she had a small handgun for self-defense.
The not-to-be-forgotten images, Part 1:
The police actions – many of the victims describe the gun confiscation as out-and-out theft – left New Orleans’ residents, who had been prepared to stand their ground and defend themselves from thugs and looters running amok, completely defenseless.
Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, told WND such plans “start smacking of a non-The United States of America” and more of “some Third World country.”
The government, he said, appears to want ever more control over people’s lives, which “is crippling the ability of people to defend themselves … in situations like a Hurricane Katrina where the police were nowhere around and people were taking up arms to protect their property.”
He noted that since the U.S. Supreme Court has determined police do not have a constitutional obligation to protect people from crime, self-reliance often can be the key to survival.
Gun confiscation schemes, then, mean “we’re going to have a citizenry that is helpless in the face of lawless people.” And that, said Thompson, is simply unconstitutional.
Herb Titus, a nationally known constitutional attorney and law professor, told WND government’s claim always is that such draconian powers will only be used “in an emergency situation.”
But there are so many “emergencies,” he said, that “all of our rights are in jeopardy.”
“It’s typical of the government to do this, typical of this age. You see the government believes it can make the decision for you better than you can make it for yourself. There’s a lot of this from the Obama administration,” he said.
The result? Government “as our master, rather than servant,” he said.
The danger is great, he added, noting that all the major scourges around the globe – Hitler, Mao, Stalin – started with weapons confiscation from victim populations.
Mathew Staver, chairman of the public interest law firm Liberty Counsel, told WND Americans “should be shocked and rightly concerned” at attempts to ban and confiscate guns.
“This is a significant threat to our freedoms,” he said. “When the government takes away the ability to defend yourself, it crosses the line.”
Recorded testimonies from the NRA videos are stunning, including these statements from law-abiding residents of New Orleans who were subject to the city’s “emergency” gun confiscation:
“They didn’t care what your rights were.”
“They were drawing down on ME?”
“I thought they were going to kill me.”
“They really did a number on me,” from Patty Konie, who was thrown against her kitchen wall by police officers taking her handgun.
“You’re treated like a criminal and you did nothing wrong,” from Richard Styron.
“The took something they didn’t have a right to take.”
NRA officials said on the organization’s video that even after the danger was over, gun owners were not allowed to get their weapons back. Some had been destroyed by police officers; others were taken without an identifying receipt, so the owners had no way to prove their ownership.
Several even had original purchase receipts, but were not allowed to retrieve their guns.
As a result, many of the victims of gun confiscation reported what they called almost “religious conversions” – from being apathetic about the Second Amendment to being strong supporters. One man reported 30 participants in his latest gun training class.
Experts warn the danger is real and current. Just days ago, the United States Army general credited with “restoring” order in post-Katrina New Orleans said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel needs to ask for all the federal help he can get to fight the escalating violence in the Windy City.
Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who served as the commander of Joint Task Force Katrina in 2005, told WLS-TV in Chicago that similar efforts to those used in New Orleans are needed to restore order in Chicago.
“Well, you know, if we had a natural disaster, the mayor and the governor would be able to ask for a federal declaration and get all the government assistance to house and shelter people, and emergency power,” said Honore.
“We have a similar things happening on the human capital side,” he added. “That is communities that are being exploited by violence where our citizens who spent their lives in these communities are not free. That shouldn’t happen in America. The mayor and governor should ask for federal assistance in all of government. I’m talking about healthcare, educational opportunities, dealing with mental health issues, after school programs, and additional police that should control our streets. This is America.”
When asked by WLS if the National Guard should patrol certain streets of Chicago, Honore stopped short of endorsing the idea.
“I think that the first thing you do is have an expansion of police, bringing in other police officers from cities around Chicago and the state to control the situation and maintain control in the part of the city that has the violence. And surveillance, it’s amazing what happens when you put cameras on every corner. Reinforce the liberties of the people to be able to walk the street so little girls like [15-year-old Hadiaya] Pendleton don’t get shot.”
What about gun confiscation?
Honore said the same measures used in New Orleans are needed in Chicago.
That’s despite a murder death rate in Chicago that’s greater, over the past decade, than the number of American forces who have died in Afghanistan since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. And yet the city remains one of the most difficult in the nation in which to buy or possess a firearm.
Outright gun confiscation would not be new to Chicago. In 1994, as the Chicago Tribune reported, special squads of police officers were sent to patrol the hallways and stairways at the Chicago Housing Authority’s Robert Taylor Homes. Then-Mayor Richard Daley said U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen was allowing systematic, apartment-by-apartment searches by police under certain circumstances. Police Supt. Matt Rodriguez said the “mission teams” of patrol officers, detectives and gang crime specialists also were dispatched to other South Side areas.
Civil rights lawyers argued the warrantless searches and confiscations were blatantly unconstitutional.