Can The Government Confiscate My Firearms During a Disaster?

By Woody published on in Legal

During the recent disaster wrought by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, many readers have been wondering whether the government can confiscate their firearms if the Governor or Federal Government declare a state of emergency. The Shooter’s Log reached out to U.S. Law Shield for the answer.


dozens of rifles in a pile

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 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 of 2007, and signed into law on October 4, 2006.

Can the Federal Government confiscate your 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.
    1.  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.

Texas Law on Firearms Confiscation

In Texas, Government Code Chapter 418 (EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT) permits the Governor to declare a State of Disaster which suspends certain state laws and regulations to allow local authorities to conduct rescue and recovery operations.

However, it does not allow for the seizure of any legally owned firearms, with limited exception.

Specifically,

Sec. 418.003.  LIMITATIONS.  This chapter does not:

(5)  except as provided by Section 418.184, authorize the seizure or confiscation of any firearm or ammunition from an individual who is lawfully carrying or possessing the firearm or ammunition;

Sec. 418.184.  FIREARMS.

(a)  A peace officer who is acting in the lawful execution of the officer’s official duties during a state of disaster may disarm an individual if the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary for the protection of the officer or another individual.

(b)  The peace officer shall return a firearm and any ammunition to an individual disarmed under Subsection (a) before ceasing to detain the individual unless the officer:

(1)  arrests the individual for engaging in criminal activity; or

(2)  seizes the firearm as evidence in a criminal investigation.

To read Governor Abbott’s actual declaration, click here.

Florida Law on Firearms Confiscation

Article IV, Section 1(a) of the Florida Constitution permits the Governor to issue an Executive Order to declare a State of Emergency in times of a natural disaster, allowing him to enact provisions of the State’s Emergency Management Plan.

For Hurricane Irma, the Executive Order provides specific provisions regarding the activities permissible to state and local officials during the emergency, as provided for in  Florida Statutes beginning with Chapter 252.31  “State Emergency Management Act.”

In part, the Executive Order states:

Section 2. I designate the Director of the Division of Emergency Management as the State Coordinating Officer for the duration of this emergency and direct him to execute the State’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and other response, recover, and mitigation plans necessary to cope with the emergency. Pursuant to section 252.36(1)(a), Florida Statutes, I delegate to the State Coordinating Officer the authority to exercise those powers delineated in sections 252.36(5)-(10), Florida Statutes, which he shall exercise as needed to meet this emergency, subject to the limitations of section 252.33, Florida Statutes.

But those powers have certain limitations with regards to firearms. In particular,

Chapter 252.36(5)(h) states the Governor may:

(h) Suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives, and combustibles. However, nothing contained in ss. 252.31-252.90 shall be construed to authorize the seizure, taking, or confiscation of firearms that are lawfully possessed, unless a person is engaged in the commission of a criminal act.

Final Word

So, there you have it. During our times of disaster, we can all focus on recovery and not have to worry about the authorities coming along and confiscating our firearms. The Second Amendment survives disasters.

Surprising Hurricane Harvey Heroes

[Addendum: Due inquiries from Members, this story was updated on Sept. 7.]

U.S. Virgin Islands Confiscating Firearms

On Tuesday, the island’s Governor ordered the National Guard to confiscate weapons and ammo that may be required for them to carry out their mission.  What that specifically means is unclear. Also, the U.S. Virgin Islands is not governed by the U.S. Constitution, but instead by the “Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands,” a federal law approved by Congress in 1954. The island does not have its own constitution yet.

The NRA has threatened to file a lawsuit, and here is their take:

In 1997, the chairman of the House Committee on Resources asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to clarify just how the U.S. Constitutional applies to various “U.S. Insular Areas,” including the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its findings were inconclusive and unsettling, especially to those now living under Governor Mapp’s orders. Said the report:

Under the Insular Cases and subsequent decisions, rights other than fundamental rights, even though they may be stated in the Constitution, do not apply to the territories or possessions unless the Congress makes them applicable by legislation. The Congress can by law extend the coverage of the Constitution in part or in its entirety to a territory or possession, and has done so with respect to some territories. In the absence of such congressional action, however, only fundamental rights apply.

Digging further, one finds that only parts of the Fifth Amendment are considered to be “fundamental” based on court rulings, and none of the Sixth Amendment applies. And nothing is said in the 75-page report about the Second.

If the NRA does sue and their position is sustained by the courts that people living on the island are U.S. Citizens with full protection of the U.S. Constitution, the issue will be settled. If not, or no suit is filed, those living on the island will be subjected to having their weapons confiscated by the National Guard.

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Comments (39)

  • Hide Behind

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    Am not afraid or too proud to admit that if a scenario of well armed and body protected officials came to confiscate my weapon , I would calmly hand them over,
    Gramps raised no fool and in such an Instance commiing suicide over inanimate steel, Aluminum, plastic should not enter the picture
    If it was a blatant National Program I would comply, and live to fight on another day and in my own way.
    I Don’t care if you live in a reinforced bunker there is no way you can win against the armed might of military or some of our now fully militarized police.
    It isn’t hard to talk of cold dead fingers if you speak out of a half brain dead head.
    You fight to live not die. Unless you are an Islamic fanatic driving a Toyota truck full of explosives while wearing a suicide vest.
    He’ll even a red neck knows there are hardly 70 virgins within the US.

    Reply

    • Dave Gilmer

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      So, Mr Hide Behind – Your Gramps may not have raised a fool, but don’t kid yourself that you will do anything much effective “to fight on another day and in my own way” after surrendering to gun-grabbers. That might require you to put your life at risk. There are no safe spaces for any snowflake participants during revolutions. Before you call others “half brain dead”, consider that OUR fathers (evidently yours wasn’t around, or you wouldn’t have been raised by your Gramps) may have taught us that tyranny must absolutely be resisted. That’s especially true as some of us with that mind-set are aging and ailing to the point where living forever is not an option, even in our delusions. (By the way, my apologies and respect to your father IF he died serving our country. Mothers and grandparents sometimes do not impart the same Scots-Irish cussedness as fathers, and to lose a father is always tragic.)

      Reply

  • Hide Behind

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    Am not afraid or too proud to admit that if a scenario of well armed and body protected officials came to confiscate my weapon , I would calmly hand them over,
    Gramps raised no fool and in such an Instance commuting suicide over inanimate steel, Aluminum, plastic should not enter the picture
    If it was a blatant National Program I would comply, and live to fight on another day and in my own way.
    I Don’t care if you live in a reinforced bunker there is no way you can win against the armed might of military or some of our now fully militarized police.
    It isn’t hard to talk of cold dead fingers if you speak out of a half brain dead head.
    You fight to live not die. Unless you are an Islamic fanatic driving a Toyota truck full of explosives while wearing a suicide vest.
    He’ll even a red neck knows there are hardly 70 virgins within the US.

    Reply

  • TomC

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    Maybe YOU should take a look at the reality of immediate post-Katrina Louisiana. Yes, the NRA did sue, AFTER the police across several jurisdictions had carried out highly effective search & destroy missions hunting for firearms in both occupied and unoccupied residences. Yes, the NRA did win the lawsuit and did get a nearly worthless court order directing the police to return firearms. But the reality is that nearly all the confiscated firearms were AT LEAST damaged, many were destroyed, many (perhaps most, we will never know) were never returned because the owners could not prove their ownership (no receipts were issued for the confiscated firearms – how many of your firearms could you PROVE belonged to you, especially after your home had been flooded any most of your paper records were destroyed by the flood — did you even keep the original sales receipt for every firearm you own, and does that receipt include the description AND SERIAL NUMBER of each firearm). And, no they have NOT paid for the guns that were damaged or destroyed. Any owner claiming damage must first prove that they did own the firearm, then file a claim for the damage – then either accept the ludicrous offer or individually sue the agency (which costs more than most of the firearms are worth, so they generally do accept whatever little is offered – if anything).

    Your absurd view that Ruby Ridge was a win for the RKBA side is so far out of touch with reality as to make all your comments a farce.

    Reply

    • Hide Behind

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      Cannot stress how important proof of ownership and as I found out when arguing with IRS the value of those weapons.
      I had, let’s just say an extensive amount of weapons when Our home burned clear to ground, and back then no fireproof safes.
      Some of those weapons were over 150 years. ORIGINAL Hawkins and even British Bess or two.
      I got no tax break at all as I had also lost all reciepts, of those with such, as they said Los guns could of been junk.
      Today when I buy any weapon I keep receipts and then through small gun store I get written evaluations and place both in Bank lock box.
      Just a word to save headaches if, hopefully never. Same happens or a theft occurs.
      One can go feds to check type and serial numbers to see if ever stolen.
      To those who are registered as antiquity the paper work is a must have safe and even anotherfireproof record box inside.

      Reply

  • Hide Behind

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    Forgotten is the old phrase; “There is The Law and then there is The Spirit of the Law” and those words were first put into proper context within England as Natual Law versus Crown Edicts and then resurfaced before there was a US colonial period.
    Thomas Jefferson expressed that idylic phrase in his writings when mentioning what the populace must guard against, the abuse of central lawmakers of laws.
    It is that very sentiment that was cause for the establishment of the third but equal branch of government, Supreme Court.
    LAWS ARE MADE TO BE CHALLENGED FOR IF THEY GO UNCHALLENGED YOU DO NOT HAVE FREEDOM AND LIBERTY OF SELF RULE AND ARE BUT SUBJECTS TO THE WHIMS OF RULERS.
    The 2nd Amendment was not in effect at Katrina, Ruby Ridge, WACO, or even today when our police, Fed and supercitizen LEO’s partake of powers way beyond Civil Rights protections and their fellow officers ever complain. Making them complicit.
    Today new laws reflect the surrendering of the Spirit of the 2nd Amendment so as to have legal permission, and of course identity politics given to LEO’s special dispensation from government that supersedes the Spirit of equality under laws of this nations belief of sovereignty of each individual.
    I mention LEO as but an example of but one means wherby the Central powers can and do deliberately form seperations within the American populace.
    ALSO as to how Words put into play by willing seperatist affect the “Spirit” by LEO’s as seperations of them versus ” civilians”.
    WITHOUT THE ORIGINAL SPIRIT BEHIND NOT JUST THE 2ND BUT ALL OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS WE ARE NOW RULED BY LAWZ AND RECULATIONS THAT LEGALIZED THEIR ABUSES.
    What good are ideals if one is not ready to suffer the consequences that may arise when you stand forth for them?

    Reply

  • Dave Gilmer

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    As to the “these are neighbors, friends, fathers, mothers and family to someone you know. Do you really want to be the one who killed your best friends uncle. Who was the father to 3 little girls.” argument about law enforcement involved in violating God-given Second Amendment rights to self-defense: If they do that, they are no different, except as to language spoken, from the Nazi goons who confiscated firearms from Jews in Germany in the 1930s. Their leader had also been democratically elected under the laws of the country. Those brownshirts had little girls and nephews, many of whom also ended up dead in World War II.

    Reply

  • Dale2

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    To all those willing to start shooting the minute the authorities show up to your door. I say, remember these are neighbors, friends, fathers, mothers and family to someone you know. Do you really want to be the one who killed your best friends uncle. Who was the father to 3 little girls. Better yet make preparations to make sure that they cannot find your guns. Water proof burial vaults, hidden wall safes or walled off attic storage. The authorities are going to be to busy to extensively search your house or property. And when asked about your guns, just explain that in advance of the emergency your transported your firearms out of state. If they take you to jail, it is a lot easier get you out of jail, then it will be to get your guns back. I worked at a cop shop and know of guns that were held for years.

    Reply

  • Festus

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    People, like “governor” Mapp, can be DE-elected. So, to those of you under his rule, has better get busy!

    No matter what he really meant in that order, it was so poorly worded that proper interpretation and implementation were impossible. Who wants someone like that making decisions for THEIR government?

    Then, there is the reported anarchy that occurred in the aftermath of the storm on SOME islands. Being without your firearms would be unthinkable.

    No matter where you live, I have an idea as to how to respond when the governmental thugs come to confiscate your firearms: “You’re too late. The non-governmental thugs were here earlier and beat you to them.” Close the door.

    Reply

  • Stan

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    Any person of authority will do whatever they want during any emergency situation. An emergency in their mind that is. You do not have to comply. In New Orleans, they were not ransacking peoples houses, they were just asking if there were any firearms in the house, and people complied due to the fear of breaking the law. (The law that the cops just made-up at the moment) The criminals did not comply BTW

    Reply

    • G-Man

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      @ Stan,

      When I read someone make such outrageously inaccurate of a comment as you have here, I have no choice but to correct the disservice you do to the true history of what really occurred and the people that actually suffered the severity of a contrasting reality.

      Nothing could be further from the truth in what you wrote, and I quote:

      “In New Orleans, they were not ransacking peoples houses, they were just asking if there were any firearms in the house, and people complied due to the fear of breaking the law.”

      As a law enforcement officer I do have internal access to more accurate reports and firsthand knowledge as to what really transpired, but it doesn’t take much for the general public to research and find that confiscations in New Orleans went far beyond the mild manner as you’ve claimed.

      Law enforcement did in fact proactively go door-to-door entering and searching vacant and occupied houses to specifically confiscated firearms. There were claims filed for damages made later which does constitute “ransacking”.

      Many people in transit under evacuation submitted claims after having their weapons destroyed by law enforcement who had confiscated and then smashed them against the curb to disable them because there were too many already confiscated and nowhere else to store them.

      One of the most widely known videos is by a local news crew that was trying to do a story on an elderly woman who decided to stay in her home. Her home was high and dry and she was showing off her stockpile of food and her unloaded revolver when several law enforcement officers who had also been invited in suddenly and violently tackled the elderly woman to the ground and punched her until she released her gun.

      There are scores of stories by military personnel who were assigned to accompany law enforcement on rescue patrols and later spoke out about how they got into conflicts with local law enforcement when they realized they were unlawfully “ransacking” homes to confiscate firearms. This is all documented in reports that went up the military chain of command.

      There are far more horror stories than I can offer in one post. So below I‘ve provided a link to one of many videos that should help to re-orient you into the reality of what actually did occur:

      Reply

  • Todd Duffey

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    If the government attempts to seize your firearms, you better had considered it an illegal, unconstitutional government and take action with said firearm(s).

    Reply

    • TomC

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      Yawn. More “Cold Dead Hands” rhetoric.

      My bet is that you back down when faced with a squad in level III or IV body armor carrying machine guns.

      But if I’m wrong and you don’t back down, they will just as happily do exactly that — they WILL take your gun from your cold dead hands

      Reply

    • G-Man

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      TomC,

      As you wet yourself fantasizing over the prospect of totalitarian death-squads desecrating our Second Amendment protections, you would do well to be reminded how your bromance with your Level IV armor clad heroes actually goes down:

      In Katrina they abandoned their posts, joined in with looting, their police chief resigned, and their mayor went to prison. In the end the NRA sued in federal courts and made them return all the guns they confiscated and pay for the ones they destroyed.

      In the two most recent notable federal stand-offs, law enforcement was overwhelmed with the presence of committed citizenry firepower and was forced to stand down. The result left hundreds of firearms in the very warm-living-hands of those participants.

      Even more notable stand-offs such as Ruby Ridge ended in the suspect’s acquittal for killing a federal agent who had tried to take his guns from his land.

      So go ahead and yawn all you want, but there are plenty more successful incursions where true patriots have stood their ground and done their duty to keep our totalitarian government at bay.

      Since you really haven’t a clue what is in the mind and muscle of Todd Duffey, I submit that your post was more a confession as to how you would cowardly kowtow when faced with the defense of your God-given rights. Probably best you leave Todd Duffey out of your personal weaknesses.

      Reply

    • asoro

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      True, but if you don’t make a stand and I am talking about 1000s of people than our rights 2nd A don’t mean a thing, whats stopping an Trany Gov, from makin g some bS up just to take your guns like Hillary may have done or this S.A.T. thing with the UN that will not g o away. they can’t wait to send in the blue hats,

      Reply

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