May 20, 2007

ILLEGAL GUN CONFISCATIONS IN KANSAS? I don’t know the guy making this report about the aftermath of the Greensburg, Kansas tornado, but he gives FEMA generally bad marks. I can believe that, but there’s also this:

In the immediate recovery after the storm, FEMA and local police not only worked to find survivors and the dead, but also any firearms in the city. As you pass by houses in Greensburg, you notice that some are spraypainted with how many weapons were recovered from the home. This is central Kansas, a region with extremely high legal gun ownership. Of the over 350 firearms confiscated by police immediately after the storm, only a third have been returned to their owners. FEMA and the police have systematically disarmed the local population, leaving the firepower squarely in control of the state.

If this is true, it violates federal law, which provides:


“(a) Prohibition on Confiscation of Firearms.–No officer or employee of the United States (including any member of the uniformed services), or person operating pursuant to or under color of Federal
law, or receiving Federal funds, or under control of any Federal official, or providing services to such an officer, employee, or other person, while acting in support of relief from a major disaster or
emergency, may–

“(1) temporarily or permanently seize, or authorize seizure
of, any firearm the possession of which is not prohibited under

[[Page 120 STAT. 1392]]

Federal, State, or local law, other than for forfeiture in
compliance with Federal law or as evidence in a criminal
“(2) require registration of any firearm for which
registration is not required by Federal, State, or local law;
“(3) prohibit possession of any firearm, or promulgate any
rule, regulation, or order prohibiting possession of any
firearm, in any place or by any person where such possession is
not otherwise prohibited by Federal, State, or local law; or
“(4) prohibit the carrying of firearms by any person
otherwise authorized to carry firearms under Federal, State, or
local law, solely because such person is operating under the
direction, control, or supervision of a Federal agency in
support of relief from the major disaster or emergency.

I hope that the firearms rights community will look into this, because if the report is correct both FEMA and the police are in violation of federal law. While the law is relatively new, it was signed six months ago, and there’s no excuse for FEMA, etc. not knowing about it. What’s more, the local police are covered by the law as working with FEMA, and, presumably, receiving some sort of federal funding. Note that the statute provides for a private right of action, and an award of attorney’s fees to an aggrieved party.

I’ve emailed FEMA’s public affairs office to ask about this account.

UPDATE: Wow, that was fast. Reader Eric Wilner points to this post that I had somehow missed saying that these reports are basically bogus — guns were collected, but they were unattended guns found in damaged homes and they’re now being returned to their owners.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Steve Granzow emails:

I just returned from Greensburg and just read your gun confiscation post and update. Guns are being returned to their rightful owners. They have an emergency broadcast AM station that even advises residents on how to reclaim their firearms from the local sheriff’s office. That is not to say that the ATF is not “very interested” in a few of the firearms recovered.


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