Update on New Orleans Gun Confiscations by Police
Tom Gresham brought this up a couple of days ago, and being the gentleman he is, did not mention my name as his source, because he had not asked my permission to do so. The reason he has not asked is that I live in Baton Rouge, and we are still digging out from under Hurricane Gustav...I have not had internet access for over a week now.
In the course of doing research for our book ("The Great New Orleans Gun Grab") Todd Masson (my co-author) and I kept running across stories and evidence that New Orleans traffic cops were taking guns from motorists during routine traffic stops. The ploy used is to ask a motorist if he has a gun in the car, then ask to see it. Upon issuing the traffic citation, the cop asks the motorist if he has a receipt for the gun. Of course, no one has one, so the cop informs the motorist when he/she comes up with a receipt proving ownership, he/she can retrieve the gun at such-and-such a district.
As one of the responders to Tom's thread pointed out, it happened to him in the late Nineties. When he went to the district to get his gun, no one could locate it in evidence, and of course, he never got it back. It apparently was a quite prevalent practice in the years leading up to Hurricane Katrina--so much so, it was one of the factors leading to the wholesale confiscation of guns from holdouts in New Orleans who refused to evacuate. In fact, we described this practice as one of the root causes of the confiscations in our book.
A good friend, a retired NOPD Homicide Lieutenant, told me it was a common practice when he was on the force. In my outrage, I spluttered "They can't do that. That's illegal!"
His answer was "Gordon--I didn't say it was legal. I said they did it..."
We thought the practice had died out. NOPD and the city took such a hit of criticism after the lawsuits by the NRA and SAF, we thought perhaps they had stopped doing it. Then, as we slowly get further from the event, complaints start coming in again of the practice. I have spoken to four people who have had their handguns taken by individual officers during traffic stops in New Orleans since Katrina. I have spoken to several other people who have heard of it.
The most recent was just two weeks ago when one of the local gun stores called me and put the gentleman on the phone--he was there looking for a receipt for his gun, which had been taken by NOPD traffic cops. I know of one person who definitely got his gun back. Apparently, no criticism or punishment was meted out to the female officer that took the gun.
Is it legal? Of course not. It amounts to armed robbery by cop. Louisiana law allows loaded guns in vehicles concealed or unconcealed.
If a cop wants to know the status of a gun, he has the right to run its serial number and description on the National Crime Information Computer--the FBI database into which all law enforcement agencies enter stolen property, wants, warrants on individuals, etc. If a gun does not come back stolen on NCIC, and the person is being investigated only for traffic violations, the cop should give the gun back. He has no legal right to keep it.
How do you avoid it? If it occurs, demand a supervisor come to the scene. They know they are not supposed to be doing it, and anyone who knows his legal rights can likely stand them off. Generally, that will put them off. They bulldoze people who don't know their rights pertaining to gun ownership.
Should you get into a confrontation? I wouldn't. But I would write down their unit number, badge number, and any other information, and file an official complaint with the Internal Affairs Office of NOPD as quickly as possible. Include a description of the gun and its serial number.
If you know of anyone who has suffered such an incident, please PM me. Dan Holliday, the attorney for the NRA/SAF here in Baton Rouge, has been collecting these stories and getting depositions from victims to document an ongoing practice of abuse. The lawsuit against the city of New Orleans pertaining to the gun confiscations after Hurricane Katrina will be going to trial in November. We would like to document as many of these types of cases as we can.
I hasten to add not all NOPD is bad. There are some excellent, professional police officers down there trying to do a thankless job in a dangerous city. Unfortunately, there are some bad apples who see their job as an opportunity to enrich themselves, and add to their own personal arsenal by seizing the legal property of private citizens they stop. It happened before, and in the aftermath of Katrina, and it's happening again.
So warn your friends that travel to the city to have a receipt for their guns if possible--and demand to see a supervisor if stopped by a traffic cop who tries to intimidate them into giving up your firearm.
Thanks for the opportunity to bring this up and let people know about it.
"The Great New Orleans Gun Grab"
In the state of Louisiana a concealed handgun permit holder is required by law to inform an officer of his permit and whether he is carrying a firearm on his person at the time of a traffic stop. This is best done by giving the officer your CCW permit along with your driver's license. I recommend keeping both hands on the steering wheel after doing so. Before I pull over for a traffic stop, I remove my wallet and place it on the dashboard so the officer can see my hands at all times. He will know of my permit as soon as he runs my plates, before he approaches the vehicle. I keep my vehicle registration and insurance verification papers above the sun visor for the same reason.
In Louisiana, an officer has the authority to disarm a person who is lawfully carrying a concealed weapon in a traffic stop. The weapon should be returned to you afterwards, assuming no arrest is made.
I have been pulled over four times by police in Louisiana since I first obtained a carry permit. (It's been a long time, well before "shall issue".....) I have informed as required by law each time. I have kept my hands in view each time. Only once have I been asked to exit the vehicle and had the officer remove and secure my firearm for the stop. Every other time it was a non-issue. In fact once, a State Trooper passed my concealed handgun permit back to me saying "I don't need to see this." Each time I was cordial and the officer was courteous and professional.
If you are in Louisiana and you do not have a Louisiana CHP or an out of state reciprocal CCW permit, then you are not required to inform, and there are no regulations on how the gun should be carried or secured. The vehicle is treated as an extension of your home. LRS 14:95.2: "Any constitutionally protected activity which cannot be regulated by the state, such as a firearm contained entirely within a motor vehicle." It would be wise to not toss your handgun on top of your license and registration in the glove box though. Once the officer sees the handgun, and especially if it's underneath the registration papers, making you have to reach towards it to provide him with the papers, he will become understandably agitated.
There is a grey area of a CHP holder with no gun on his person, but instead a firearm in the glove box or elsewhere in the automobile. Whether this person has a duty to inform is one that demands scrutiny. Under these circumstances, I recommend informing the officer. I am not an attorney, and my recommendations should not be construed as legal advice.