With wildfires burning across the state, and after last year’s natural disasters (Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida), many of our members have been asking, “can the government can confiscate my firearms if the Governor or Federal Government declare a state of emergency?”
Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the New Orleans police went door to door seeking people who rode out the storm in their homes to force them to comply with the forced evacuation ordered by the government. As part of the effort, the officers were also confiscating firearms.
This created an outrage among the law-abiding gun owners of the country and resulted in the passage of state and federal laws to prevent such confiscations from occurring in the future.
In 2006, Congress passed the DISASTER RECOVERY PERSONAL PROTECTION ACT OF 2006. The law was intended to prevent the government from seizing legally owned firearms during the time of a disaster. It was incorporated as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act 2007 and signed into law on October 4, 2006.
CAN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONFISCATE MY FIREARMS?
This law amended 42 U.S.C. 5207 Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to add the following provision:
SEC. 706. FIREARMS POLICIES.
(a) PROHIBITION ON CONFISCATION OF FIREARMS- No officer or employee of the United States (including any member of the uniformed services), or person operating pursuant to or under color of Federal law, or receiving Federal funds, or under control of any Federal official, or providing services to such an officer, employee, or other person, while acting in support of relief from a major disaster or emergency, may–
(1) temporarily or permanently seize, or authorize seizure of, any firearm the possession of which is not prohibited under Federal, State, or local law, other than for forfeiture in compliance with Federal law or as evidence in a criminal investigation;
(2) require registration of any firearm for which registration is not required by Federal, State, or local law;
(3) prohibit possession of any firearm, or promulgate any rule, regulation, or order prohibiting possession of any firearm, in any place or by any person where such possession is not otherwise prohibited by Federal, State, or local law; or
(4) prohibit the carrying of firearms by any person otherwise authorized to carry firearms under Federal, State, or local law, solely because such person is operating under the direction, control, or supervision of a Federal agency in support of relief from the major disaster or emergency.
(b) LIMITATION- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any person in subsection (a) from requiring the temporary surrender of a firearm as a condition for entry into any mode of transportation used for rescue or evacuation during a major disaster or emergency, provided that such temporarily surrendered firearm is returned at the completion of such rescue or evacuation.
Following the lead of the federal government, some state legislatures adopted their own version of this law. However, Colorado is not included in that list and has not enacted a similar state law.
COLORADO LAW ON FIREARMS CONFISCATION
In Colorado, under Part 7 of Article 33.5 (COLORADO DISASTER EMERGENCY ACT) the governor is permitted to declare a state of disaster emergency which suspends certain state laws and regulations to allow local authorities to conduct rescue and recovery operations. A state of disaster emergency may continue until the governor finds that the threat of danger has passed or that the disaster has been dealt with to the extent that emergency conditions no longer exists. This may not continue for longer than thirty days unless renewed by the governor.
If a state of disaster emergency is declared, the governor has broad authority under Colorado law to issue executive orders, proclamations, and regulations as deemed necessary. With regards to firearms, the governor does have the authority to suspend or limit the sale of firearms. The governor may also commandeer or utilize any private property if the governor finds this necessary to cope with the disaster emergency. However, compensation to the property owner is required for commandeered private property if the property was used or destroyed by order of the governor or a member of the disaster emergency forces of Colorado.
Further, under these circumstances, the governor may also direct and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area within the state if the Governor deems this action necessary for the preservation of life or other disaster mitigation, response, or recovery. As such, Colorado citizens would be required to comply with a temporary surrender of firearms if their evacuation required state or federal transportation as mandated under federal law.
Unlike many other states, Colorado has not enacted a law preventing state authorities from confiscating firearms during state of emergencies. However, Federal law does provide some protections for Colorado citizens when federal authorities are acting in support of relief from a major disaster or emergency.
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