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Pending Nebraska bill hits close to key Washington I-591 tenet: No gun grabs

Alan Gottlieb is a chief backer of I-591, which places limits on the governor's emergency powers.
Alan Gottlieb is a chief backer of I-591, which places limits on the governor's emergency powers.Dave Workman

Pending legislation in Nebraska sponsored by State Sen. Mark Christensen, detailed yesterday by the Associated Press in both the San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Times, hits very close to home on a key tenet of Initiative 591 in Washington State, because it would prohibit the governor or his subordinates from grabbing guns during an emergency.

I-591, sponsored by a coalition of groups including the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, would prevent government gun confiscation without due process. Christensen’s LB390 amends Nebraska’s emergency powers act and the key language is in Section 3.

The I-591 component and Christensen’s bill appear to be commonly linked to a 2005 natural disaster known as Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath of that massive event, hundreds of firearms were confiscated by the police – sometimes at gunpoint – without due process, warrants or even probable cause.

When CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb heard about that in the days following Katrina, his first instinct was to intervene. That is the job of CCRKBA’s sister organization, the Second Amendment Foundation. By no small coincidence, the National Rifle Association had the same reaction. The two organizations partnered in a federal lawsuit to stop New Orleans from grabbing guns.

Gottlieb has become the new bogeyman for Evergreen State anti-gunners, as this column discussed. Perhaps that has something to do with his effectiveness.

The incident inspired a book, “The Great New Orleans Gun Grab,” by Gordon Hutchinson and Todd Masson. It’s a book that many in the gun rights community consider required reading when it comes to government tyranny that the gun prohibition lobby stubbornly insists “could never happen in this country.” Except that it did.

Washington State has an emergency powers act that is not widely known, but that doesn’t mean it could not be trotted out by a gun-grabbing governor, say someone who might have established a record of support for gun control while serving in the legislature or in Congress. Here’s what RCW 43.06.220 allows:

(1) The governor after proclaiming a state of emergency and prior to terminating such, may, in the area described by the proclamation issue an order prohibiting:
(e) The possession of firearms or any other deadly weapon by a person (other than a law enforcement officer) in a place other than that person's place of residence or business;

According to the Associated Press, legislation preventing post-emergency gun grabs is now pending in Iowa, Massachusetts, Colorado and the Evergreen State. Georgia just adopted new language, the story said.

As NRA’s Catherine Mortensen noted to the Associated Press, “This might not be an issue currently, but we want to protect our right to bear arms over the long-term.”

The NRA, the story said, has worked on similar “emergency powers” laws in 34 states. The organization has not weighed in on I-591, but it has come out in opposition to the competing measure, Initiative 594, an 18-page gun control package ostensibly aimed at so-called “universal background checks.”

Last week, the Capitol Hill Times published a report about the dueling initiatives in which it said all that needs to be said about I-594: It “has widespread support from gun control groups.”

The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to natural disasters. Witness the ongoing Oso tragedy, and then think of that on a regional scale because a massive earthquake – which many experts have insisted is not an “if” but a “when” prospect – could move the earth in the Puget Sound Basis from Bellingham to Olympia with the kind of destruction seen in Japan and Alaska.

In such a situation, forget about 911 because there will be limited communication and help isn’t coming. Citizens would be on their own.

It is not clear when Christensen’s bill will be debated, but gun rights activists across the country are watching, same as they are keeping an eye on the initiative battle in Washington. Both issues could have far-reaching implications.

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