Governor Kenneth Mapp of the Virgin Islands issued an emergency order on Monday to take effect yesterday in which he authorized the U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard to mobilize its units as necessary to “maintain or restore public order.”
In a surprising part of his declaration Gov. Mapp authorized the National Guard to confiscate private guns from citizens if needed.
The Adjutant General is authorized and directed to seize arms, ammunition, explosives, incendiary materials and any other property that may be required by the military forces for the performance of this emergency mission, in accordance with the Rules of Force promulgated by the Virgin Islands National Guard and approved by the Virgin Islands Department of Justice.”
In other words, Mapp has suspended the U.S. Constitution, potentially depriving private citizens the right to protect themselves and their property with firearms.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) reacted immediately, issuing a statement yesterday condemning Mapp’s action as “unconstitutional.” Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, indicated the group is ready to take legal action.
When 911 is non-existent and law enforcement personnel are overwhelmed with search-and-rescue missions and other emergency duties, law-abiding American citizens must be able to protect their families and loved ones,” Cox continued. “The NRA is prepared to pursue legal action to halt Gov. Mapp’s dangerous and unconstitutional order.”
When Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans in 2005, then-Mayor Ray Nagin issued a similar confiscation order ahead of a forced evacuation. The NRS promptly sued him, claiming the action would leave people “at the mercy of roving gangs, home invaders, and other criminals” after the hurricane.
In response to the controversy, Congress passed the 2006 Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act to prohibit any future attempts to confiscate legally-owned firearms during an emergency.
As has been seen in previous natural disasters, including as recently as Hurricane Harvey in Texas, in a storm’s aftermath looters can appear to steal from retail stores and private homes where owners have evacuated.
Gun confiscation orders are clearly unconstitutional and raise the risk of danger for private citizens who can’t be protected by government resources thinly spread to deal with storm recovery.
Image: Times Caribbean Online