September 27, 2005

New Orleans Restraining Order & The NRA

Clayton Cramer has published part of the restraining order barring New Orleans from stealing any more guns. Mr. Cramer was kind enough to let me take a peak at the order itself but unfortunately there's a "Not For Publication" disclaimer at the beginning of the thing. So if nothing else out of respect for Mr. Cramer I can't post it. Triggerfinger also received a copy & has a very good analysis of the thing & its implications.

A few thoughts:

I've criticized the NRA for its response. Their initial press release (from Friday, September 9th) was worded very timidly. On the following Monday (September 12th) they did a little better. On Friday September 16th they said they had their folk in New Orleans. On Friday September 23rd they released news that the restraining order had been granted.

So the confiscations started on Thursday September 8th & went on for a day or two (possibly longer but details are very sketchy) before quietly ceasing. A little over two weeks after they started asking Mr. & Mrs. New Orleans to turn 'em all in the NRA succeeded in getting a judge to tell them they couldn't do that. Meanwhile CNN took hours to get an injunction filed when their reporters were told they could not hitch a ride with search crews.

I realize CNN had a clearer issue of standing to work with than the NRA did. The NRA had to find folks who would be willing to let them help them & I admit that getting into New Orleans to conduct interviews was probably not as easy as it'd sound. Course I could also argue that the NRA could have gained standing fairly easily by simply checking its members list (you know they have a list of members by address - how do you think they fund raise?) & filing for an injunction on behalf of all its New Orleans members when Compass announced the confiscations. After all no reporter was actually denied a ride form what I understand - it was just announced that they would be denied rides with search teams & CNN filed papers within hours of the announcement. I admit I do not know the procedures for filing for a restraining order in New Orleans & what standing is considered to be in that state, but off the top of my head I'd think that it'd be worth trying rather than waiting.

But here's the thing; the NRA made some omissions in its press release about the restraining order.

The Second Amendment Foundation along with the NRA & at least one private attorney assisted some of the victims in filing for a court order stopping the gun thefts. The SAF didn't hesitate to mention they were in it with the NRA but yet the NRA omitted them from all the press releases I've seen concerning the matter.

It's not surprising. The NRA has been accused of grandstanding before. They wish to take the credit despite having been helped. & this is unsubstantiated but seems credible; from what I have heard the SAF were the ones on the ball with rounding up people who did have standing & offering to help them file the paperwork in court. They then asked the NRA to bring its "900 lb gorilla of gun rights" self to the party (which they were presumably attempting to do already).

Another odd thing is the NRA seems to not want the restraining order published. I'm hoping their reasoning for this is less childish than simply not wanting it known they didn't act alone in this, but I simply cannot fathom why such a document would be kept under wraps despite the results being gloated over.

Now it has been asked where Gun Owners of America was during all this. well from this page devoted to the New Orleans gun thefts I found this page explaining what they have been & are doing. The gist is they lack standing to file for any injunctions themselves but they say they'll happily file a brief & give financial support to whoever does have standing. In addition they're working on introducing federal legislation to keep those dollars from being used to further a confiscation program.

Now a critique of GOA's legislation; practically I think it'd be irrelevant. Any local agency could probably find the funds to finance civilian disarmament on their own or through non-federal sources. Personally I would have preferred seeing legislation making it a federal felony to infringe upon any u.S. citizens Right to keep & bear arms, but since that would implicate most of congress past & present I doubt it'd go over too well.

Another thing that GOA did which I'm not sure the NRA caught on to was to note that the media was eerily silent after the initial reports of confiscations. They even said that some federal congrescritters were unaware of what was going on & urged folks to contact them.

But the NRA is getting criticized despite GOA & other orgs not doing anything substantive. & I'm one of the chief NRA critics. So why am I so hard on the NRA & not GOA or the other pro-gun groups? That's easy; those other gun groups don't have 4,000,000 members. They don't have the budget that comes with 4,000,000 members. & they don't have the reputation of being the overly obese primate on the hill that the NRA does. The NRA has more resources at its disposal, therefore I expect more from them.

Or I should say, if I believed they were a pro-Right to Arms group I'd expect more from them. But I don't see them as that. I see them as mainly a sporting club & trade/industry support organization. They proudly wear the pro-gun owner banner whenever they're asking for donations, but their actions usually contradict that image.

Now I even heard a blogging buddy of mine say that the GOA was simply trying to smear the good name of the NRA in an attempt to steal some of its members to fill their own coffers. I've heard that kind of thing before but let me say quite clearly that the NRA does a fine enough job of besmirching its own name - if you think it's a pro gun owners group that is. Sure the GOA needs members & money, as does the SAF & the CCRKBA & the RMGO & GRNC a host of other smaller orgs. But no one has accused the NRA of doing anything shady without justification.

See if you go to any legislature, federal or state, where gun control is likely to come up you have a three sided war going on. The NRA is usually attacked by the anti-gunners. The anti gunners are attacked by the NRA & other pro-gun orgs. Then finally the other pro-gun orgs are attacked by the NRA. You simply cannot get pro-gun legislation passed unless the NRA is involved - not because it has the lobbying muscle to persuade enough votes, but because it'll use that same legislative muscle to kill any bill it deems too pro-gun or otherwise not in its interests. Ditto for the courts as two attorneys from the CATO institute found out when they tried to get D.C.'s gun ban overturned.

So no; the smaller groups such as the GOA are not trying to take jabs at the NRA in order to get new members. If any jabs are taken it's usually in self defense. In any event I've not seen anything from any other pro-gun org that was made up or otherwise fabricated about the NRA doing something less than cool for gun owners. If anything bad is said about the NRA by a pro-gun group all too often it's the truth.

Much to my disappointment not everyone is an Absolutist such as I am. I even have friends that argue CCW permits are a good thing. So naturally I don't expect to have universal agreement when I say something. I'm even getting used to the folks who say I do more harm than good when I advocate a position that's too pro-gun. Hell, I've even been accused of being an anti-gunner in disguise trying to muck up the pro-gun works.

But the NRA is not your friend, unless you're comfortable with a lot more gun control than I am. The NRA isn't for absolute gun control, not by any means. But they do favor some gun control & to a degree that I'm uncomfortable with. Hence I hit them hard when they show that they're not the pro-gun gorilla that is claimed of them. They're simply a gorilla. They’re more pro-gun than most of the other gorillas in the political jungle perhaps, but not nearly as pro-gun as some of their lesser primate relatives such as the GOA.

All that is to say that the GOA gets the benefit of the doubt on not acting, while the NRA gets picked on for their horribly worded initial press release, their slow response & their lack of credit sharing with the SAF.

Yes, the NRA did do something along with the SAF. But what they did came 15 days after folks needed them to show some spine. It's better that they did something than it would have been otherwise, but it'd have been much better as well as expected of them if they had acted sooner & with less timidity.

Someone commented on another person’s blog that they'd rather have the NRA's timid press release & eventual action than the GOA's fiery rhetoric followed by inaction. I can see the appeal of that. But I'm afraid that for the gun owners in New Orleans the GOA's fiery rhetoric did more for them for 15 days than the SAF & NRA's court action that came two weeks after the fact. Possibly the GOA's response will do more in the long run because of the nature of the restraining order (which would be the judges responsibility, not necessarily the NRA's or SAF's).

Now on to the restraining order:

Trigger finger covered it well & there are a few points that I'd like to highlight.

1. The restraining order only prohibits confiscation of legally owned firearms.

2. The restraining order does not supercede any emergency powers of the state

3. Receipts are required to claim guns confiscated from their owners.

The first one should be self evident; if it can be claimed that the firearms were not legally possessed then the restraining order has no effect. As in if they claim to have the authority to declare all guns contraband then they won't be confiscating any legally owned firearms.

The second point goes hand in hand with the first, as there could be some claim that the "emergency powers" of Louisiana allow for gun confiscation.

The third is problematic for recovery as it was widely claimed that cops &/or guardsmen refused to issue receipts for arms they confiscated.

So while on the surface the retraining order seems like a victory it wouldn't take too creative a gun grabbing mind to render it of little or no use.

Nothing in this world is perfect, nor do I expect perfection in every action or intent. But the restraining order does seem to leave a lot to be desired. Hopefully it won't be tested & will serve mainly to bolster any class actions that will be filed against Compass & crew.

But there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the order itself as well as the reasoning behind its issuance. Hopefully I'll find out more sometime soon.

Posted by Publicola at September 27, 2005 05:05 AM | TrackBack

I should note that the wording could be read to require the police to issue a receipt to the plaintiff. However, I can't see how that would work in practice -- do they just give him a tour of the armory and let him examine their firearms? Unless the plaintiff has a list of his firearms along with their serial numbers it's going to be tough to identify them, and the police aren't going to be helpful.

Posted by: TriggerFinger at September 27, 2005 08:47 AM

TF - I suspect that the police (especially the members of the NOPD who skipped town) will be very helpful - as in helping themselves to what ever they like from the room where the confiscated(read stolen) guns are kept...

Posted by: emdfl at September 27, 2005 09:18 AM

Thanks for the tip on John Ross. I hadn't checked his site in a long while.

Posted by: Les Jones at September 29, 2005 03:18 PM