U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp has ordered the National Guard there to seize weapons and ammunition from citizens.
In the order obtained by the Daily Caller, Mapp invokes his authority as Governor and Commander in Chief of the Virgin Islands National Guard, to authorize the Adjutant General to mobilize the National Guard to “maintain or restore public order, and to guarantee the safety of life and property” and take “whatever actions she considers necessary to carry out the assigned mission.”
“The Adjutant General 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,” the order continues.
The directive has infuriated gun rights advocates and has already prompted threats of legal action by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
“People need the ability to protect themselves during times of natural disaster,” said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action in a statement. “This dangerous order violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts their lives at risk.”
The NRA said Gov. Mapp’s order is “a shocking incursion on the right of the U.S. citizens” and warns of “all-too-predictable outbreaks of looting and crime” that emergency services can be too over-taxed to deal with in the face of extraordinary events.
“The order, simply put, violates the U.S. Constitution and threatens to put innocent people at further risk.”
Such orders have been issued in disaster areas before, an attempt that local authorities say is to limit potential problems in the chaos that accompanies natural disasters.
Government offices have been all but abandoned in the U.S. Virgin Islands as Hurricane Irma batters the Caribbean.
There was nobody available at the governor’s office to speak to regarding the order, said a man who answered the phone there. Everyone had left to bunker down during the storm and regular government operations would not resume until FEMA gave the all-clear after assessing the damage to government properties, he said.
A similar order to seize weapons was issued in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Police seized and reportedly destroyed people’s weapons, but allowed private security guards to remain armed.
While there were reports of armed looters after the storm, a greater problem, according to officials, were exaggerated reports of lawlessness that drove police to overreact.