April 25, 2006
The Second Battle of New Orleans
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
The first Battle of New Orleans took place in 1814 and was pretty unambiguous—Andrew Jackson whupped the hell out of the British Army. The Second Battle of New Orleans took place during Hurricane Katrina, when Ma Nature whupped the hell out of the Federal, state, and local governments.
What we’re interested in here is whether the New Orleans Police Department took guns from beleaguered citizens who were cowering in their homes waiting for looters, rapists, and vandals to come crashing through their doors. According to NRA Executive Director Wayne La Pierre, this was done at the orders of then-Chief of Police Eddie Compass (who later resigned, possibly to go to work for Donald Rumsfeld).
According to La Pierre, when the NOPD denied the confiscations, “We brought suit and confronted them in court. When the federal judge ordered them to cease and desist, they denied it. After the judge pressed them, they admitted they did, in fact, have guns. Not just some guns, hundreds and thousands of guns.”
However, according to Superintendent Warren Riley of the NOPD, “We took guns that were stolen that were stashed in alleyways. If we went into an abandoned house and a gun was there, absolutely we took the weapons….I don’t know where they [the NRA] are getting this. We didn’t go around disarming citizens.”
According to the NOPD, about 700 firearms were seized during the storm. Far be it from me to imply that a public official is not telling the truth, but 700 firearms seems like an awful lot of guns to find stashed in alleyways and lying around abandoned homes. The NOPD seemed reluctant to take guns from looters, which could get them shot, and the odds on grabbing them from terrified citizens probably seemed a lot better.
It’s hard to say who would inspire more fear in the midst of a major disaster—an armed felon or a NOPD officer. More than 250 of them beat feet out of the Big Sleazy during the storm, calling to mind a statement from police-abuse expert Professor James Fyfe that “Some cities’ police departments have reputations for being brutal, like Los Angeles, or corrupt, like New York, and still others are considered incompetent. New Orleans has accomplished the rare feat of leading nationally in all categories.”