NRA threatens lawsuit after US Virgin Islands governor orders weapons seizure

The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands has ordered its national guard to seize guns, ammunition and other weapons from its citizens as the territory prepares for Hurricane Irma to make landfall.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp, an Independent, signed an executive order Tuesday instructing Adjutant General Deborah Howell “to take whatever actions she considers necessary” to maintain public order, The Times-Picayune reported.

The order, obtained by The Daily Caller, states that Howell is “authorized and directed 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.”

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The National Rifle Association announced its “strong opposition” to Mapp’s order in a press release Tuesday.

“People need the ability to protect themselves during times of natural disaster,” Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action said. “This dangerous order violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts their lives at risk.”

In 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin signed a similar order allowing seizure of guns, assault rifles and other weapons, ahead of a forced evacuation from those still living in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The NRA filed a lawsuit after Katrina claiming New Orleans violated gun owners’ constitutional right to bear arms and left them “at the mercy of roving gangs, home invaders, and other criminals” after the hurricane.

Congress later passed the 2006 Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act, which was meant to prohibit future confiscation of weapons during an emergency.

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“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.”  

A state of emergency has been declared in the Virgin Islands, where winds of 40 to 50 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph and 4 to 10 inches of rain are expected from now-Category 5 Hurricane Irma.