Judge Refuses to Dismiss New Orleans Suit
by Dave Workman
A federal judge in Louisiana has rejected a motion to dismiss the Second Amendment Foundation’s (SAF) lawsuit against the city of New Orleans and its top officials seeking a permanent injunction against future gun seizures in the event of another disaster like Hurricane Katrina.
Judge Carl Barbier, a Clinton appointee, told attorneys for SAF and the National Rifle Association (NRA), and an attorney representing the city that the Second Amendment is a personal right that applies to citizens of the state of Louisiana and city of New Orleans. The city has contended that the Second Amendment does not apply and that states and their subdivisions have the authority to prohibit the possession of firearms.
SAF founder Alan Gottlieb considers the city’s argument to be outrageous. He said this position reflects the city’s disdain for the rights of its citizens, and is part of a “pattern of denial” that included months of stonewalling. City officials initially insisted their police never confiscated any firearms, and only after SAF and NRA threatened to file a motion for contempt did the city relent and admit that they had hundreds of guns stored in trailers at a temporary facility.
Last year following the hurricane, New Orleans police and other law enforcement officers were directed to seize guns from everyone, allowing only police to be armed. SAF and NRA joined forces in a landmark lawsuit to stop the gun grab, obtaining a temporary restraining order from the federal court.
Subsequently, St. Tammany Parish agreed to a permanent injunction, but the city has held out. Earlier this year, Police Superintendent Warren Riley declared that if there is another disastrous storm this year, he would again order firearms to be confiscated, despite the restraining order. In response, SAF asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to investigate what would amount to defiance of a federal court order.
The city has maintained that it has the right to confiscate firearms, while there appears to be nothing in the state statutes or state constitution that would allow it. Last year’s seizures were done without court order or probable cause. In its motion to dismiss, the city argued that plaintiffs did not have a viable claim. Barbier dispensed with that notion quickly.
Attorney Dan Holliday, representing SAF and NRA, told Gun Week that he was encouraged by the judge’s ruling. He said Barbier’s remarks during discussion suggested that he believes the Second Amendment protects an individual right.
Barbier ordered New Orleans City Attorney Joseph Dirosa to file a response to the SAF/NRA lawsuit.
Attorney Stephen Halbrook, also representing SAF and NRA, told Gun Week that the next step is discovery. There will now be an inventory of all the seized firearms still remaining in police custody, plus paperwork relating to guns that have been returned to their owners over the past few months as a result of the lawsuit.
Gottlieb was elated with the judge’s ruling.
“We’re moving ahead with this lawsuit not only to protect the rights of gunowners in New Orleans,” Gottlieb said, “but to also make sure that this serves as a warning to public officials across the country to forget about seizing firearms from their law-abiding owners in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
“We’re fighting to make sure this kind of outrage will never again happen on American soil,” he concluded.
In a prepared statement, Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, called Barbier’s decision “a landmark victory.”
“Straining the bounds of credibility and reflecting the true sentiment of anti-gunners,” Cox remarked, “the city of New Orleans contemptuously argued that the Second Amendment does not apply to residents in the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans.”
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre was quoted by KATC News in Lafayette, LA, noting, “I’m delighted to see that the Second Amendment still applies in Louisiana.”
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