In October of 2008 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana found for the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association in their long-standing suit against the city of New Orleans.
This suit, filed first in February of 2006, demanded the city begin proceedings to return the over 800 guns stored in an NOPD evidence trailer. These guns had been illegally confiscated by law enforcement from the law abiding citizenry of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
In April of 2007, I put together a team of experts and accompanied Dan Holliday to New Orleans to begin a long-awaited gun inventory. Dan is the attorney from Baton Rouge representing the SAF/NRA.
We had finally gained access to the guns being held by the NOPD, and we started a lengthy inventory of these wretched, filthy, rusted guns.
Still another 19 months would pass before the courts finally had enough, and ordered New Orleans to begin proceedings to return as many guns as possible. The court further ordered a permanent injunction against the city to never again illegally seize firearms from citizens without just cause.
There was much grumbling and protestations on the gun blogs, sites, and in magazines about the shame of allowing those who had basically committed armed robbery by cop to escape all consequences. Basically, the complaints went, New Orleans got off with a slap on the wrist, and the only good coming out of this was at least some of the guns would be given back.
Having lived with this case for three years and having been intimately enough involved to have written a book about it, I think the record now needs to be set straight.
The NRA and SAF got exactly what they were looking for the entire time.
Before Hurricane Katrina, it was a well-known practice of NOPD to seize guns from citizens during traffic stops, telling them they could get their guns back when they showed up at the precinct with a receipt proving ownership. For more details on this practice, go to my column here:
As we detailed in the book, these practices were one of the things that led to the wholesale confiscation of guns by every stripe of law enforcement in the madness after Katrina.
The Second Battle of New Orleans was the court battle between the gun organizations and the city over the guns held by the city. The NRA/SAF wanted the order of a permanent injunction against the city which prohibits them from ever again taking a gun from a citizen illegally.
The following quote was taken from the NRA Institute for Legislative Action website for October 8, 2008:
Under the terms of the injunction, Mayor Ray Nagin, Police Chief Warren Riley and any agents or employees of the City of New Orleans shall:
• cease and desist confiscating lawfully-possessed firearms from all citizens;
• make an aggressive attempt to return any and all firearms which may have been confiscated during the period August 29 to December 31, 2005;
• within one month of the settlement, post on the City website the procedure for the return of confiscated firearms. This notice must include an interactive form for those claiming firearms to fill out, resulting in timely transmission of the information to the appropriate official. All other information on claiming a firearm will also be included on the site.
• within one month of the settlement, the City must mail notices to all individuals who are identified on the property tags of firearms in the City's possession which were confiscated during the aftermath of Katrina.
“On behalf of the lawful gun owners of New Orleans, NRA is pleased with this outcome,” said Chris W. Cox, NRA’s chief lobbyist. “We thank Judge Barbier for his leadership and constitutional scholarship in presiding over our lawsuit. NRA will continue to aid however we can in the full return of all the firearms confiscated by the City.”
What should be pointed out here, in spite of the constant harping by the media about the guns, it was never really about the guns in storage!
Law enforcement officials seized what is now believed to be thousands of guns from citizens for months following Hurricane Katrina. The correspondingly small number of guns which were stored were only those turned in to NOPD—and few of those were of any great worth.
Quotes from officers in depositions to NRA/SAF investigators stated most of the quality guns were kept while the junk was tossed in the lakes and canals of New Orleans. A lot of the guns stored were junk which were turned in as red herrings to show the guns were not being stolen.
Those guns became the public focal point in the battle between the NRA/SAF and New Orleans.
But the permanent injunction is what the gun rights organizations wanted, and is the reason for the continued fight and resistance by the city. A permanent injunction doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room the next time a traffic cop steals a handgun from a motorist.
With the permanent injunction now in place against the city, ANY violation of this injunction by any representative of the city can result in the city being immediately cited for violating the injunction, opening the way for serious penalties.
As Dan Holliday described it to me, the purpose was always to gain the permanent injunction. Thus it is recorded in federal court that the city may never again take any guns from any citizen without due process.
This allows a complaint to be brought directly and instantly to the court, and places New Orleans in contempt of a federal court order—a situation taken seriously by the courts and those in contempt. Such an action could result in jail time and fines for the mayor and superintendent if such actions occur again.
So the next time you’re stopped in New Orleans, if the cop takes your gun, and offers some song and dance about you don’t have a receipt so therefore you have no proof you own it, be sure and get his/her name. And keep the ticket as proof of the stop--and call the NRA and the SAF.
This time, we have a hammer.