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.

43 Responses to Big Sandy’s Comin’ – Lessons from Katrina

  1. avatarJSIII says:

    Keeping a low profile is important. Best not to be in full view of everyone patrolling your property in camo and carrying an EBR. That being said I think no one should just roll over and give up your firearms to an illegal force. I will not blame those who readily turn firearms over in an illegal confiscation but you will also have those who refuse to go along with an illegal confiscation. Sadly good people are bound to be hurt. Hopefully there are enough LEOs out there who would refuse such an illegal order but I am sure there would be enough who would.

    • avatarczechsix says:

      Yep, low profile in this situation is a great idea, and almost mandatory. I’d expect that most of the confiscations that occur are related to someone seeing a firearm brandished – which generates a visit from your local public servants. What I’d recommend, in addition to keeping a low profile, is also have several caches, properly placed, secured, and with the contents properly sealed. Always have backups – murphy is always around, and if you have to hand over your firearm, make sure you get a written receipt (yeah, I know…at least try), sign their little forms, wait a few minutes after they’ve left, and go get something out of one of the caches.

      One thing I’ve always been curious about – when the confiscations were happening, were there thugs watching, to see who had been disarmed? If I was into the criminal lifestyle, that’s one thing I’d definitely have been doing. Followed up pretty fast by a “visit”.

      It’s definitely illegal, as far as the confiscations go, but also – these are tools. Doesn’t make sense to get lit up in a relatively minor situation over a tool – as long as you have a replacement.

  2. avatarsanchanim says:

    Being ready is always good.
    One thing I can say, is for those of you with extensive collections, it might be worth it if you have a relative, or trustworthy friend who lives out of harms way, but within some driving distance. Take what you don’t need to them. Keep only what you need to bug out if necessary. This way you don’t have a safe or safes sitting in your empty home full of your collection.

  3. avatarST says:

    Some thoughts on the matter.

    Louisiana is a relatively pro-gun part of the country, New Orleans’ corrupt government aside. Thats an important cultural distinction from New England, which is one of the most anti-gun sections of America outside of Illinois and California;remember that during Katrina police had to go door to door at random to find any civil-owned weapons.

    In New Jersey, Washington D.C., New York State & City The Man has every legal gun owner’s name, address, and John Doe on file in a government registry. In the event history repeats itself the authorities will know exactly whose doors need to be broken down to seize their firearms.

    I’d offer the suggestion to residents of the Northeast to get any valuable or hard to replace firearms out of the state at once-find a relative or friend who can take temporary custody out of state, and keep a Glock or some other disposable weapon on hand for personal defense. In the event the cops show up demanding the whereabouts of your weapons, you can lawfully say they’re out of state.

    If the above isn’t possible, I’d seriously consider evacuating until the storm passes. Not because its a danger necessarily , but because it may be the only practical way to keep your weapon collection out of police hands. NOPD still hasn’t accounted for many guns taken in 2005, and I wouldn’t bet the farm on the NYPD being any better at returning people’s property after a natural disaster.

    • avatarglitchedmac says:

      Thankfully PA is an anomaly of the North East. Gun laws here are very straight forward and lax It’s easier to buy a gun on Sunday then it is to buy a 6 pack. No registration (aside from the fact gun shops have to keep a list of those they sell to). However they may assume I have one since I have a carry permit. I remember watching those types of videos after Katrina. It is quite scary and the lack of outrage, at least in my area, really surprised me.

  4. avatarRKflorida says:

    All this for a tropical storm? What the heck kind of infrastructure do they have in that area? Paper Mache? Bridges made of graham crackers?

    • With high tides and a massive cold front moving in from the west this storm could be a doozy.

    • avatarST says:

      I can’t speak to New York City’s infrastructure, but if its anything like Chicago’s system Paper Mache would be stronger than what’s in place now. I remember having to walk/drive under the CTA’s Red Line train system knowing full well the bridge had exposed sections of steel rebar.

      • avatarAvid Reader says:

        Amen to that. It’s a wonder the damned things don’t just collapse.

        • avatarNot Too Eloquent says:

          Please, any storm over 25mph north of North Carolina is the “Storm of the Century”. A full fledged hurricane in the South? “Who Cares”. It’s all about the Northeastern news/media complex.

  5. avatarRobert Farago says:

    I had a senior moment recently: I couldn’t remember the combination to my gun safe. One second it was there, the next: poof! Seriously. Luckily, I had a key in the other safe.

    I wonder whether I might experience a similar failure in a high stress situation.

    I also wonder A) if the po-po would search my house without a warrant—provided martial law wasn’t in effect and B) whether or not they’d cart me off if I forgot the combo.

    As a Rhode Islander and a realist I’m well aware of the discrepancy between the letter of the law and its implementation, but still. Wouldn’t the cops have better things to do in an extended emergency than come after my guns? Here’s hoping.

    • avatarrosignol says:

      Easiest way to deal with the ‘what if they come for my guns’ scenario is to temporarily relocate to a non-firearm-owning friend’s house. If you’re not there, you won’t get shot, and you won’t end up shooting someone you don’t want to shoot.

      If the cops come to your house looking to confiscate without a warrant and you’re not there, you’ll get to file some really fun police reports and insurance claims if they break and enter.

      Not that I think this is a terribly likely scenario, quite a lot of people with badges looked at what happened during Katrina (and the aftermath) and decided “Okay, so that’s what NOT to do…”.

    • avatarRalph says:

      RF, I have my ‘senior moments” too. I’m not sure if it’s Oldtimers Disease or residual brain damage from all the sh!t I did in college. As for the latter, my guess is that’s why Obama screwed up the first debate.

  6. avatarensitu says:

    This storm will surely prove that those crazed and bitter preppers with thier Beans, Blankets, Boots, Bandaids,Boats, Survival Skills, Tempoary Shelters, Gennys,Fuel, First Aid Training and Radios are COMPLETLY HELPLESS without the Nanny State’s Boot On Thier Neck,,,I mean Helping Hand. Because,, you know,, If they are Sucessful,,They Didn’t Build That!

  7. avatarShark says:

    We were without power for over a week after Ike. We had less police patrols than normal, and considering everybody was outside, I felt pretty safe in my neighborhood. I can’t imagine that kind of gun grab. Why have there not been prosecutions for the blatent lawlessness by the police and NG? I guess we still live in a society where “Might makes Right.”

  8. avatarjwm says:

    I have stashed a couple of guns and a supply of ammo. I don’t know how successful a gun grab operation would be after a major earthquake but I want to be able to keep at least the minimum to protect me and mine.

    Keep a low profile and as soon as possible, if possible, get yourself and your important stuff out of the area.

  9. The one thing I remember reading about the most concerning those good people in New Orleans? They couldn’t believe what was happening before their eyes. They just couldn’t fathom that society could or would break down that fast. They were not mentally prepared. Most in the area of this storm will not be mentally prepared for what could happen.

  10. avatarensitu says:

    When you combine Normalcy Bias with a Nanny State your 3/4 of the way to a disaster under average conditions

  11. avatarensitu says:

    @ Gary that’s a great site you have there! (Handgunlaw.us)

  12. avatarGreg Camp says:

    I would say that we’re safe here in Arkansas, but Joplin, MO, just a few miles north of me, got wiped out by a tornado. It’s disturbing how thin the veneer of civilization can be–and how shallow American values run in some people.

  13. avatartdiinva says:

    This is not a Cat 5 storm. Last time I checked it was a Cat 1 on its way to a tropical storm. It will dump a lot rain, flood low lying areas and take down some power lines. We have seen worse and didn’t see a breakdown in society. I am not expecting the appearance of water-zombies. I expect to be at my office consulting on Tuesday and enjoying my free Monday.

    Am I unprepared? No. I have plenty of Spam and canned fish. Most importantly I have a good supply of beer.

    • avatarNot Too Eloquent says:

      Yeah, I remember he last “Storm of the Century” two years ago in NYC. Manhattan had a real good sprinkling. Please.

    • avatarRalph says:

      @tdiiva, I also have put aside some luxury goods like Spam, tuna fish and batteries. I’ve also stocked up on necessities, such as 3 1/2 liters of Wild Turkey. So I’m all set.

  14. avatarAharon says:

    New England is generally anti-gun. Having the mass media blast it all over that guns are being confiscated by local/state governments is the last thing Team Obama wants to deal with days before the election.

  15. avatarNuclearpenguin says:

    Just saw a Coke machine gun safe for sale on craigslist. These things are great and they can search all they want. Unless they are thirsty, they will not get your guns.

  16. avatarBLAMMO says:

    Most of us who are gun owners in the PRoNY, only have long guns which are not registered (outside of Bloombergistan). So the authoritah don’t know who has guns. I don’t have any guns. Mine were lost in an unfortunate boating accident.

  17. avatarAaron says:

    Florida has statutes expressly forbidding this in a state of emergency or disaster. :)

  18. avatarAccur81 says:

    I may need a good lawyer to help me get reinstated with back pay if I refuse to obey an unlawful order. At this point, there are so many guns out there that it would be a PITA to confiscate them. CA gun and ammo sales have been off of the charts for while now, and this state isn’t even gun – friendly.

    As far has gun culture has concerned and advanced, I am reasonably convinced that I would get some guns bullet first if I were to come for them. It would be worth the of confiscation if I was going after a criminal, because those things need to be done. Confiscation from a law – abiding citizen? Not worth it.

  19. avatarGs650g says:

    Clearly you need a stashed gun set hidden in the house and give away guns to hand over to them. They are not going to spend a lot of time at each house looking.
    The problem is using a gun after they leave. If you we’re visited and still have guns you kept, then you’re in big trouble if you pop a thug who is making a move on you. They won’t give a shit about circumstances, you broke their newly minted gun ban and that’s more important since it defied their authority.

    If they take the guns set up your valuables by the door to hand over the criminals next.

    • avatarracer88 says:

      If you we’re visited and still have guns you kept, then you’re in big trouble if you pop a thug who is making a move on you. They won’t give a shit about circumstances, you broke their newly minted gun ban and that’s more important since it defied their authority.

      But, I would be ALIVE (rather than the dead victim of said thug). I’ll takes my chances with the gov’t thugs later.

    • avatarDontNeed2PlayByTheBook says:

      …no one needs to know that you just shot a good-for-nothing thug…

    • avatarDontNeed2PlayByTheBook says:

      No one needs to know that you just shot a good-for-nothing thug.

  20. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Given that Bloomberg is so utterly incompetent that he can’t get snowplows into the streets to clear an above-average, but hardly unprecedented snowfall from NYC streets, I’d say that NYC residents should be concerned. Bloomberg has proven that he cannot manage weather-related emergent events that are easily forecast and planned for.

  21. avatarensitu says:

    No worries; Obama appeaerd on TV to assure the masses that he was in control, a leader that could be trusted (but not to lower the oceans it seems) He was in a comand center surrounded by men in military uniforms, scowling men in uniform. What could possibly go wrong?

  22. avatarRalph says:

    Louisiana has a state constitutional amendment on the ballot this year. It recognizes RKBA as a fundamental right and subjects all restrictions to strict scrutiny, which is a very high threshold. I’m sure that Katrina had something to do with it.

  23. Pingback: Post Hurricane Katrina: State of Emergency | Law and Society@Kwantlen

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