ALEC, NRA Unite To Curtail State And Local Governments' Emergency Powers

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

After law enforcement disarmed New Orleans residents as part of their effort to evacuate the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the National Rifle Association (NRA) teamed up with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for a nationwide campaign to promote legislation in dozens of states banning governors and local officials from seizing firearms during emergencies.

The two groups similarly have worked in tandem to spread across the nation Florida-style "Kill at Will" self-defense laws as well as legislation allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring guns on college campuses.

In September 2005, less than a month after Katrina made landfall, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre devoted his column to gun confiscation in the wake of the hurricane, describing it as "a tyranny that must be stopped -- never to happen again." He promised that the NRA would be "enacting laws to prohibit state and federal authorities from seizing firearms from innocent citizens under a state of emergency due to a natural disaster or terrorist attack."

On March 24, 2006, the NRA announced that several pieces of "NRA-Backed" legislation had been filed in advance of the start of the Louisiana legislature's session in order to "prevent the seizure and confiscation of legally-possessed firearms during a state of emergency." Five days later they trumpeted the introduction by then-Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) of federal legislation "amending federal emergency statute laws to stop local authorities from confiscating lawfully owned firearms during times of disaster."

In the months that followed the NRA repeatedly touted both the federal and Louisiana legislation and urged their members to take action to ensure the passage of both. On June 12, 2006, the group celebrated and took credit when the Louisiana legislationwas signed into law.

The next month, ALEC's Civil Justice Task Force unanimously adopted a model Emergency Powers Firearm Owner Protection Act. The NRA termed the model bill "similar in concept" to Jindal's. Portions of that model legislation are also strikingly similar to Louisiana's law.

From Louisiana Act No. 275:

§329.6. Proclamation of state of emergency; conditions therefor; effect thereof...

(1) Nothing in this Section shall authorize the seizure or confiscation of any firearm or ammunition from any individual who is lawfully carrying or possessing the firearm or ammunition except as provided in Paragraph (2) of this Subsection.

(2) A peace officer who is acting in the lawful discharge of the officer's official duties may disarm an individual if the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary for the protection of the officer or another individual. The peace officer shall return the firearm to the individual before discharging that individual unless the officer arrests that individual for engaging in criminal activity, or seizes the firearm as evidence pursuant to an investigation for the commission of a crime.

From ALEC's model bill:

Section 2. {Prohibiting seizure of firearms during state of emergency}

Pursuant to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and [insert appropriate section referencing state right to keep and bear arms clause] of the Constitution of [insert state name], nothing under this or any other provision of law shall be construed to authorize the seizure or confiscation of a firearm or ammunition during a declared state of emergency or natural disaster except from a person who is unlawfully carrying or in unlawful possession of such firearm or ammunition.

Jindal's federal legislation was adopted through the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

ALEC's network of conservative legislators allowed similar bills to be introduced andpassed across the country. In February 2008 the Los Angeles Times reported that "at least 21" states had followed Louisiana in passing such legislation, which the Timeswrote "has been heavily promoted by" the NRA. This year alone, the NRA has pushed for such bills in Oklahoma, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, and Virginia.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.