Fairfax, VA - On July 13, the United States Senate overwhelmingly passed (84-16) an amendment (#4615) to the Homeland Security appropriations bill (H.R. 5441). This amendment -- sponsored by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) -- prohibits the use of funds appropriated under HR 5441 for the confiscation of lawfully possessed firearms during an emergency or major disaster.
Commenting on the passage of the amendment, NRA-ILA Executive Director and chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox said, "After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Police Superintendent issued orders to confiscate firearms from all citizens, allegedly under a state emergency powers law. With that one order, he stripped the one means of self-protection innocent citizens had during a time of widespread civil disorder. This legislation guarantees that will never happen again."
Various reports indicate that military and law enforcement agencies from the federal government and several states confiscated guns from law-abiding New Orleans residents. The Vitter Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds to seize firearms or restrict firearms possession, except in the circumstances allowed by current federal or state law. Convicted felons and other "prohibited persons" are not protected under this legislation and it does not effect law enforcement operations outside of disaster relief situations.
"In passing this legislation, the United States Senate acted to protect the self-defense rights of citizens when those rights are most vital. There was no 9-1-1 or police to rely on while looters and rapists and thugs ran rampant and honest citizens were left to their own devices to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors. I want to thank Senator Vitter for introducing this amendment and all the Senators who supported it."
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the resulting gun confiscations, NRA filed suit in federal court and won a temporary restraining order ending all the illegal gun confiscations. After the City of New Orleans failed to comply with the court’s ruling, NRA filed a motion of contempt that included an order that all seized firearms be returned to their rightful owners.
Due to NRA’s leadership, emergency powers legislation prohibiting government officials from restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners during declared states of emergency passed in 10 states during the 2006 legislative session, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Alaska, Idaho, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma.
While the passage of the Vitter Amendment in the U.S. Senate represents an important victory for America’s law-abiding gun owners, the job is not yet finished. It is vital that this provision be included in the final version of the bill that emerges from the House and Senate conference committee later this year.