Two House committees are investigating Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s emergency order allowing national guardsmen to confiscate legally-owned firearms ahead of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Republican Reps. Rob Bishop of Utah and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia sent a letter to Mapp on Wednesday, asking for documentation on the order and whether or not any firearms were actually seized under the emergency order.
Both lawmakers worried Mapp’s order could violate Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“Citizens deserve a clear answer on how the government of the Virgin Islands intends to implement this and any future emergency executive orders that may impact their constitutional right to bear arms and defend themselves in an emergency,” Bishop and Goodlatte wrote.
Bishop chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, which has oversight responsibilities for U.S. territories, and Goodlatte chairs the House Committee on the Judiciary. (RELATED: Trump May Go Nuclear On Tariffs And Tax Uranium Imports)
Mapp issued an order in September that allowed the adjutant general of the National Guard “to seize arms, ammunition, explosives, and incendiary material and other property required’ in carrying out the emergency mission.” The order is still in effect.
However, Mapp claimed in a subsequent interview neither the emergency order nor Virgin Islands law allowed the seizure of lawful firearms. Mapp said the order only allowed the government to purchase firearms and ammunition through the normal procurement process.
Mapp maintained that line in December and decried such “foolish” questions, despite the explicit wording in the order allowing the seizure of weapons.
The National Rifle Association and Second Amendment advocates remained concerned about Mapp’s emergency order. Gun rights advocates pointed to an incident in 2005 when former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued a similar order allowing for firearms to be confiscated during Hurricane Katrina.
A federal court ruled Nagin’s order unconstitutional and Congress passed legislation barring U.S. officials from confiscating legally-owned firearms during an emergency or subsequent relief operation.
“The inconsistency between the language in the executive order and Virgin Islands Code allowing for the seizure of legally owned firearms and your public statements regarding how the executive order will be implemented is concerning and potentially jeopardizes citizens’ right to bear arms,” Bishop and Goodlatte wrote to Mapp.
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