Almost a month ago, Harvey hit Texas and caused mass destruction. When Irma began to form, coastal and island residents were already hyperaware of the potential devastation, and so preparations went underway almost immediately. One of those more extreme preparations has been causing controversy in the gun industry.
On Tuesday, September 4th, the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Kenneth Mapp, signed an executive order that allowed the National Guard to “…seize arms, ammunition, explosives, incendiary material, and any other property that may be required by the military forces for the performance of this emergency mission.”
And anybody who is a proponent of, or even familiar with, the 2nd Amendment said “…Come again?”
This isn’t the first time this has happened; in 2005, a similar order was issued by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin before mandatory evacuations during Katrina. The NRA fired back with a lawsuit, arguing that the order violated constitutional rights and left people defenseless against crime.
A year later, in response to this incident, Congress passed the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act. In this act, it explicitly states that because those “confiscations and prohibition…deprived the citizens of Louisiana…of their rights…in violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States”, that “No officer or employee of the United States…may temporarily or permanently seize, or authorize seizure of, any firearm”.
So when the governor signed his order, it raised a few eyebrows. Understandably.
In an interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, the governor defended his order against cries of unconstitutionality, claiming a difference between what everybody commonly holds “seize” to mean and what he allegedly intended it to mean in the order (an interesting communications strategy on his part). He asserts that “seize” in the order is basically synonymous with “purchase”.
The governor said in the interview, “if they [the National Guard] did not have sufficient weaponry, they would go to any place, like a store, where they could buy that stuff. Meaning that she [the Adjutant General] has the authorization to spend government resources and acquire it…we do not seize property without due compensation to the property owner.”
Governor Mapp points out that nowhere in the document does it “say anything in here about taking weapons from citizens” and emphasizes that he has no authority, under the Constitution or Virgin Islands law, to do so.
When Carlson called attention to the fact that there was no distinction anywhere in the document between citizens and corporate property, the governor maintained “That is exactly the point”. He continued to insist that this order did not give the military the power “to go into people’s homes and get them, but to get them as the government acquires property on the open market”. He contended that it was not about taking anyone’s personal property, but more about bypassing lengthy procurement processes during an emergency.
In the conclusion of the interview, Carlson (a bit sarcastically) thanked the governor for his “clarification” and held that none of what he had just been told was clear from merely reading the document.
As of right now, no actual seizures have been reported, but the NRA issued a press release stating “strong opposition” to this order. Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, responded by saying, “This dangerous order violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts their lives at risk.”
Many in our country deny that the threat of disarmament is real, dismissing it as conspiracy, a tactic employed by the NRA to scare the civilian population. But this mandate may make them change their minds.