The National Rifle Association (NRA) is threatening legal action to stop a seizure of guns and ammunition by U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp (I) ahead of Hurricane Irma, the group said Tuesday.
"People need the ability to protect themselves during times of natural disaster," said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA'S Institute for Legislative Action. "This dangerous order violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts their lives at risk."
The order authorizes and instructs the islands' adjutant general to seize "arms, ammunition, explosives, incendiary material, and any other property that may be required by the military forces for the performance of this emergency mission," as approved by the territory's Department of Justice.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin signed a similar order in 2005 amid the destruction from Hurricane Katrina allowing the seizure of private weapons, which the NRA opposed in a federal court. Congress later passed a bill, supported by the NRA and signed by President George W. Bush, banning future seizures of weapons during emergencies.
“When 911 is nonexistent and law enforcement personnel are overwhelmed with search-and-rescue missions and other emergency duties, law-abiding American citizens must be able to protect their families and loved ones," Cox said. "The NRA is prepared to pursue legal action to halt Gov. Mapp's dangerous and unconstitutional order."
Irma is now classified as a Category 5 storm, higher than Hurricane Harvey's rating of Category 4, which brought devastation to the greater Houston area last week.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello have both declared states of emergencies ahead of the storm, which is currently making its way westward across the Atlantic.