The National Rifle Association is threatening legal action after the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday authorized the government to seize personal guns and ammunition that could be utilized by authorities in response to Hurricane Irma.
"People need the ability to protect themselves during times of natural disaster,” Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement. “The NRA is prepared to pursue legal action to halt (U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s) dangerous and unconstitutional order.”
In the order, obtained Tuesday by The Daily Caller, Mapp activated the National Guard and authorized Adjutant General Deborah Howell “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.”
The islands have since been battered by Irma. President Donald Trump has approved emergency declarations for the islands, along with Puerto Rico and Florida, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies to remove debris and give other services that will largely be paid for by the U.S. government.
Mapp ordered a 36-hour curfew starting Wednesday at 6 a.m. local time. Under curfew restrictions, anyone without authorization should remain indoors to allow crews to clear roads and restore services without disruptions, he said.
“When 911 is non-existent 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. “This dangerous order violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts their lives at risk.”
A similar order was signed in 2005 by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in response to Hurricane Katrina, The Hill reported. The NRA challenged the order in court and Congress later passed a bill that banned future weapon seizures during emergencies, the news site reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.