Big Sandy’s Comin’ – Lessons from Katrina

It’s happening again. Random atmospheric events are combining to put the smackdown on a good portion of the country, this time aiming for the Northeast. As a former resident of Florida who’s weathered several hurricanes, I can offer this advice: be prepared, and do it now. There are plenty of lists of emergency supplies, and quality advice is only as far away as your keyboard. But, there’s one thing no one’s talking about in the mainstream news: how to survive the aftermath of a storm large enough to cause civil disruption . . .

I’m not too worried about TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia. You’re (mostly) alert, aware, and cognizant of the facts that support your right to self defense and firearms ownership. For those who visit our site less frequently, let’s talk about the real threats you might be facing.

“No one is allowed to be armed. We’re going to take all the guns.” Remember that? That was former New Orleans Police Superintendent P. Edwin Compass III, commenting on the mass confiscation of legally-owned guns that occurred just after Katrina cleared out of New Orleans.

Compass’s position on the whole mess was that of your typical anti-gun authority figure: taking away all the guns will reduce the “near anarchy” in the city. His edict, that no civilians in New Orleans would be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns, or other firearms, was backed up with a simple, “only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons” policy.

Considering the population density in Sandy’s path, gun confiscation is sure to be proposed in at least some of the areas depending on the level of damage. The public-facing mouth of authority will again call for a firearms grab in an effort to reduce violence and civil disobedience. Now, I don’t know what kind of utopian bizarro world these civil servants inhabit, but I have yet to hear of even one recalcitrant criminal turning in his gat for the greater good.

What the residents of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are facing isn’t a scenario, or a well-crafted movie script. This is the real deal, as was Katrina. The stories of looting, violence, and self-defense are well-documented. And if Sandy hits with force, you can expect those tragic incidents to be repeated, with the affected population an order of magnitude greater than those who rode out 2005’s superstorm. What can we learn from our last Cat 5 tragedy?

First, your local government is there to help you, but they will be overwhelmed, and you may not see any assistance for several days. Plan on having a week’s provisions on hand. Think of it as supplying a week-long camping trip without going anywhere. It’s almost too late, so you’d better be stocked up on everything from toilet paper to drinking water to ammo. I’m not here to give you the specifics; there are plenty of disaster-preparedness checklists available that can do a better job.

Next, should things go badly, your local government won’t give two shits about your individual rights and freedoms. They’ll be in crisis mode, looking to control mobs and the masses. Playing it smart and keeping a low profile go out the window when they’re pounding on your door, however.

If law enforcement tactics in the wake of Katrina are any indication, we can expect similar gun grabs post-Sandy. I don’t know how to play this – on one hand, this is the very reason for the Second Amendment. There is no better example of the natural right of self defense than a major disaster that knocks a couple thousand years off our accumulated civility and turns some of us into tribal beasts with a hankerin’ for bloodlust. And a new TV.

On the other hand, if you’re looking down the barrels of a squad of armed LEOs, that might not be a good time to argue the finer points of the Bill of Rights. Of course, we all know that you lost your entire arsenal in that unfortunate boating accident, right?

Get yourself to your favorite internet search engine and explore the disaster prep checklists for firearms owners. Don’t count on the BATF (and really big E); their advice for Federal Firearms Licensees is simply to make sure your records are in order for insurance purposes. And oh, if a disaster is imminent, you might want to lock up your inventory. Thanks for the help.

A few key things that come to mind for a gun-friendly checklist: plenty of ammo (obviously), a cleaning kit, any spare parts or springs that don’t need a workbench and make sure serial numbers and other documentation is secured. I’m hoping the AI will contribute with recommendations in the comments.

Let’s take a look at what we can learn from the post-Katrina events, with regard to confiscation and self-defense. It’s not like there’s slim pickings – hundreds of articles were posted and entire books were written about the Big Easy gun grab.

The above quotes from Superintendent Compass came from this Times article. In typical fashion, the sensationalist headline only reflects half the story. Apparently, the seizing of civilian weapons didn’t include those in the hands of the private security contractors that flooded the area. Compass had no plans to confiscate any weapons except those held by the parish’s citizens. It took a lawsuit from the NRA to force city officials to return the guns to their rightful owners.

NPR tells the story of the increase in gun ownership after Katrina — both civilians and law enforcement, including an $18,000 shopping spree by small-town police chief Dwayne “Poncho” Munch. Some local residents, like Charles Clayson, a river pilot, were prepared for the post-storm eventualities. He defended his neighborhood with the help of other pilots, arming himself with an AR-15:

I was sitting up there on my four-wheeler, and my dog was right there with me. I had the lights on. And some–you could tell they were bad guys–a bunch of junk in the back of their pickup truck–drove down real slow and I kind of made a wave at them; they didn’t wave back. They were just looking. They looked angry. And they stopped, turned around, came back and I just made sure that they saw that I was armed. And with that, once they saw that I was armed, they took off.

That’s just one of many stories where a New Orleans resident used the threat of armed defense in the protection of life and property. Clayson was fortunate that his neighborhood wasn’t evacuated with force. Some residents, like those in this scary video, weren’t so lucky, and ended up having their guns confiscated.

Remember that the opinions and personal feelings of those doing the confiscation don’t really matter. As veterans and active-duty service members know, your duty is to carry out your orders. But, this Marine PA Officer provides an interesting perspective, when asked if he’d obey an order was in violation of the Constitution: “The Marines have the right to refuse an unlawful order.” This is where things get sticky; I’d recommend posting the Second Amendment on your front door. It may not keep your guns from being taken, but at least you’ll have something to point to and scream about as they cart you off.