Sunday, March 28, 2021


This Sunday talk show moment is getting a lot of attention:

Graham has a 1900-square-foot house in Sparta, South Carolina, a city of fewer than 9,000 people an hour's drive from Greenville. That far from a population center, it's hard to imagine where a feral gang would form, and why it might consider preying on Senator Rambo in his woodland home.

But this isn't about Graham and his personal safety. It's about a 16-year-old right-wing grievance that -- like all right-wing grievances -- continues to be lovingly nursed, because right-wingers can never let anything go.

You see, if you're a right-winger, the worst thing about Hurricane Katrina wasn't the loss of life, loss of personal belongings, or loss of community> It wasn't the displacement or desperation, or the failure of government to offer help in a timely and effective way. It wasn't the levees' state of repair. No -- if you're a right-winger, the worst thing about Katrina was that some people had their guns taken away.


Adam Weinstein wrote about this in 2015 for The Trace:
In the 10 years since [Katrina], as the rest of the country has wrestled with the causes and consequences of a historic natural and man-worsened disaster, a segment of the gun-rights world has nurtured its own narrative of the storm and its portents of future widespread weapons confiscation. “[T]he measures taken to disarm law-abiding firearm owners in Katrina’s wake should serve as a testament to why gun owners guard our right to bear arms so vigilantly,” the NRA wrote in a post last week for the conservative Daily Caller, commemorating the storm’s 10-year anniversary.
Some guns were taken:
It started as disorder spread two days after the hurricane slammed Louisiana, when an AP reporter witnessed police asking fleeing residents “to give up any guns they had before they boarded buses and trucks because police desperately needed the firepower.” A week later, New Orleans police superintendent Edwin P. Compass III earned infamy with a widely publicized call for blanket confiscation. “Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons,” he decreed....
But this edict wasn't enforced in any systematic way, as a pro-gun observer noted:
Brannon LeBouef, a shooting instructor and security consultant, was a New Orleans Marine veteran and reserve police officer who participated in the storm response. By 2013, he’d heard so many fantastical Katrina rumors that it was time to set the record straight. “There was NOT widespread gun confiscation in New Orleans,” he wrote on the Bang Switch, a pro-gun blog sympathetic to the Oath Keepers ... and the NRA. Gun-grabbing “was nowhere near as widespread as some would have you believe,” and the confiscations LeBoeuf could confirm “were isolated incidents” done largely by “out of town” cops and soldiers, part of an alphabet soup of agencies without clear missions or lines of responsibility:
I know I encountered countless people with firearms and did not confiscate a single one, neither did any officer I knew or worked with. The only time firearms were seized were when someone was arrested for a crime — no different than before the rain.
In fact, LeBouef wrote, he and 200 other federal officers from an array of agencies were given clear briefing instructions that included an order not to take firearms except as criminal evidence or as part of arrest procedures.
(The above link to LeBouef's post is broken, but you can read a cached version here.)

How many guns were taken? Here are the numbers we know:
LeBouef’s recollections track with New Orleans police records. Shortly after the storm, the NRA and other gun groups sued the city police department, eventually reaching a court-brokered settlement that required the police to return confiscated guns to their rightful owners. The department revealed it had taken 552 guns into custody. Gordon Hutchinson, part of the legal team that tried to inventory the confiscated weapons, estimated that police had collected several thousand more guns before a federal court halted the seizures on September 23. But whether by theft or incompetence, most weapons — the more desirable and valuable ones — had never made it into the department’s coffers; the 552 that remained to be claimed by their owners were mostly inoperable junk guns. Either way, in a city of nearly half a million, where gun possession had always been popular (and exploded after the storm), that doesn’t amount to a totalitarian power grab.
It certainly doesn't amount to a successful totalitarian power grab. Not only did the NRA's lawsuit force the return of firearms, but the police superintendent resigned under pressure a month after the storm. (Neither of those outcomes came at the point of a gun, by the way.)

But Lindsey Graham knows that this story still resonates for every right-wing gun owner in America. He also knows that after decades of scaremongering from the Murdoch media and other right-wing outlets, every conservative in America believes that the inevitable consequence of a natural disaster is the formation of roving gangs of thugs who seek to prey on innocent Real Americans.

So while I have no idea whether Graham really keeps an AR-15 in his home in the woods, I know that he knows precisely what his voters want to hear.

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