During the recent disaster wrought by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the impending landfall in Florida of Hurricane Irma, many of our members have been asking if the government can confiscate their firearms if the Governor or Federal Government declare a state of emergency.
Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the New Orleans police went door to door seeking people who rode out the storm in their homes to force them to comply with the forced evacuation ordered by the government. As part of the effort, the officers were also confiscating firearms.
This created an outrage among the law-abiding gun owners of the country and resulted in the passage of state and federal laws to prevent such confiscations from occurring in the future.
In 2006, Congress passed the DISASTER RECOVERY PERSONAL PROTECTION ACT OF 2006. The law was intended to prevent the government from seizing legally owned firearms during the time of a disaster. It was incorporated as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act 2007 and signed into law on October 4, 2006.
CAN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONFISCATE MY FIREARMS?
This law amended 42 U.S.C 5201 Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to add the following provision:
SEC. 706. FIREARMS POLICIES.
(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 Federal, State, or local law, other than for forfeiture in compliance with Federal law or as evidence in a criminal investigation;
(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.
(b) LIMITATION- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any person in subsection (a) from requiring the temporary surrender of a firearm as a condition for entry into any mode of transportation used for rescue or evacuation during a major disaster or emergency, provided that such temporarily surrendered firearm is returned at the completion of such rescue or evacuation.
Following the lead of the federal government, most state legislatures adopted their own version of this law. Oklahoma law 21 O.S. section 1321.4 Riot Control Act Amended in 2012 to make it illegal for lawfully possessed firearms and ammunition to be taken by the State of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Statutes Citationized
Title 21. Crimes and Punishments
Chapter 55 – Other Crimes Against Public Peace
Oklahoma Riot Control and Prevention Act
Section 1321.4 – Acts Which May be Proclaimed Prohibited
Cite as: O.S. §, __ __
In 2012, Governor Fallin signed an amendment to the Oklahoma Riot Control and Prevention Act that prohibits the State of Oklahoma from seizing legally owned firearms and ammunition during staes of emergency.
A. The Governor during the existence of a state of emergency, by proclamation, may, in the area described by the proclamation, which proclamation shall not cover any part or portion of the state not affected by public disorder, disaster, or riot at the time the proclamation is issued, prohibit:
1. Any person being on the public streets, or in the public parks or at any other public place during the hours declared by the Governor to be a period of curfew;
2. A designated number of persons, as designated by the Governor, from assembling or gathering on the public streets, parks, or other open areas of this state, either public or private;
3. The manufacture, transfer, use, possession or transportation of a molotov cocktail or any other device, instrument or object designed to explode or produce uncontained combustion;
4. The transporting, possessing or using of gasoline, kerosene, or combustible, flammable, or explosive liquids or materials in a glass or uncapped container of any kind except in connection with the normal operation of motor vehicles, normal home use or legitimate commercial use;
5. The sale, purchase or dispensing of alcoholic beverages;
6. The sale, purchase or dispensing of other commodities or goods, as the Governor reasonably believes should be prohibited to help preserve and maintain life, health, property or the public peace;
7. The use of certain streets, highways or public ways by the public; and
8. Such other activities as the Governor reasonably believes should be prohibited to help preserve and maintain life, health, property or the public peace.
B. Notwithstanding this section or any other law of this state, neither the Governor nor any official of a municipal or state entity shall prohibit or suspend the sale, ownership, possession, transportation, carrying, transfer and storage of firearms, ammunition and ammunition accessories during a declared state of emergency, that are otherwise legal under state law.
C. In imposing the restrictions provided for by the Oklahoma Riot Control and Prevention Act, the Governor may impose them for such times, upon such conditions, with such exceptions and in such areas of this state the Governor from time to time deems necessary.
D. Any individual aggrieved by a violation of subsection B of this section may seek relief in an action at law or in equity for redress against any person who subjects such individual or causes such individual to be subjected to an action prohibited by subsection B of this section. In addition to any other remedy at law or in equity, an individual aggrieved by the seizure or confiscation of a firearm or ammunition in violation of subsection B of this section may bring an action for the return of such firearm or ammunition in the district court of the county in which that individual resides or in which such firearm or ammunition is located. In any action or proceeding to enforce the provisions of this section, the court shall award the prevailing plaintiff costs and reasonable attorney fees.
Laws 1968, SB 753, c. 125, § 4, emerg. eff. April 4, 1968; Amended by Laws 2006, HB 2696, c. 70, § 1, emerg. eff. April 20, 2006 (superseded document available); Amended by Laws 2012, SB 1760, c. 271, § 1, eff. November 1, 2012 (superseded document available).