Letter Re: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina and Indiscriminate Weapons Confiscation

Dear Mr. Rawles,
First off, I would like to thank you for writing the novel “Patriots” and starting SurvivalBlog. My dad sent me your book in the mail and told me to read it. Being a fan of Tom Brown-ish survival literature, I decided to give it a try. I read it in one night, starting at about 8 pm and finishing at 3 in the morning. Truly, my world view has changed. I have immediately started making preparations—getting my Bug Out Bag together, my Bug Out Routes planned and starting to practice some of the skills sets I’ve let fall by the wayside recently.
I am a full time college student and collegiate cross country and track runner at a school in the great state of Tennessee, but have had the benefit of being raised in a preparedness oriented family in a
southwestern region of rural Montana. I was at school when [Hurricane] Katrina hit and remember the close-to-home impact it had on many of my friends who lived in the New Orleans area. Our school sent relief teams to New Orleans immediately afterwards, with shipments of food and water. At the time, my perception of the Katrina disaster was largely shaped by the major media
outlets. A humanitarian crisis it surely was, but I never realized the uglier side of the story until recently.
It seems that disasters and emergencies bring out the best and the worst in people. Having read extensively many of the SurvivalBlog entries and perused the Internet for stories and first-hand accounts of surviving the Katrina disaster, I discovered that the population of New Orleans could be broken down into four “classes” of people during the evacuation/hurricane/post-disaster crisis.
The first class of people was composed of a small group of individuals and families who had plenty of food, water and protection stored away to either weather the storm, or to travel to a safer location without sacrificing their safety.
The second class of people was composed of a larger section of the populace who decided to leave New Orleans or evacuate their area and had no food, water or self-protection supplies built up before-hand. These became the highway refugees, or the refugees huddled in the Superdome. Some were successful in escaping safely, many were not.
The third class of people was composed of people who decided to stay in New Orleans, without the necessary preparations, and planned on either the government helping them or on obtaining supplies from their vacant neighbor’s homes and Wal-Mart. These were looters, thieves and murderers.
The fourth class of people was composed of law enforcement and National Guardsmen who stayed in New Orleans to try and maintain order. They were usually not successful.
In my analysis, everyone in the first class of people were prepared to handle whatever came their way. They were good, hearty men and women, with respect for God and a practical view of the world. In order to survive, they just needed to minimize contact with all three of the other classes of people, namely the refugees, the looters and the police.
The refugees were desperate people, some willing to kill for gasoline so that they could rescue family members. While not necessarily bad people, they were victims of the circumstances. Avoidance of these people was relatively easy, as long as one stayed off of main highways and out of refugee concentration areas. One reader posted a letter on this blog about his experience with his dog and pickup filled with gas-cans on his way back to secure his gun store. The looters were also desperate, but not necessarily refugees. They weren’t fleeing, but were actively preying on people and businesses to
sustain themselves. These people were a lot like the “Mutant Zombie Bikers” [often mentioned by SurvivalBlog readers]. Mostly active in New Orleans, these looters were to be feared and avoided mostly by the prepared and self-sufficient people.
The police were able to direct traffic and enforce the law in the early stages of the disaster, but by the time traffic spilled out into the opposing lanes and looters really started opening up on their rampage,
they were relatively helpless. One thing that much of the public is not aware of is the indiscriminate”martial law” tactics undertaken by many police/SWAT and National Guardsmen during and after the evacuation. While their actions in arresting and confiscating weapons may have been justified in trying to control the looting problem, many honest, prepared men and women who were “holding the fort” had their homes invaded, searched and any and all weapons confiscated. In one of the parishes near New Orleans, the police used boats to pull over riverine traffic and search and confiscate any weapons found, often without providing receipts for the weapons confiscated. Obviously, for a prepared survivalist who was protecting their property, Bugging Out, or trying to provide humanitarian/rescue assistance, this was a major problem. After watching this short documentary on 2nd Amendment violations in [the aftermath of Hurricane] Katrina, which every law-abiding American owes it to themselves to watch, I have realized that in a TEOTWAWKI or near-TEOTWAWKI type disaster, even law enforcement can be more of hindrance than a help. The indiscriminate firearm confiscations that occurred in the wake of Katrina are very worrisome indeed.
In planning my Bug-Out-Plan (with multiple, redundant routes…one by foot if need be: yes, all 2,000 miles of it back home to Montana), I fully intend to avoid law enforcement like the plague. As [the] Doug Carlton [character] said in Patriots, “Roads are for people who like to get ambushed.” Similarly, getting searched by the police in a TEOTWAWKI type situation is something you definitely want to avoid. There may be cops out there with their heads screwed on straight who can discern an honest citizen from a looter, but the risk of running into a hotshot and losing the means of protecting myself is too great.
I hope all other preparedness men and women take this into account when planning. Oh, and never become a refugee and confine yourself to a refugee camp. – R.D. from southern Tennessee

JWR Replies: The troublemakers in New Orleans came from many races, and surprisingly from both lower class and the lower middle class. It is difficult to stereotype the “looters” when based on the archived news footage it is clear that they represented a fairly wide cross-section of the New Orleans populace. Safe distance from major population centers is the key to survival during a widespread disaster. Fewer people means fewer problems. Most of the armed confrontations will take place in the big cities. Yes, lives will be lost far and wide WTSHTF, but the vast majority of the violence will be in the cities.