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Weapons and Weather: Hurricane Matthew and Guns

“People do not seem to get it and are not leaving. I'm not saying this to be theatrical… I asked my captain of detectives if he had body bags, because if we get 140 mile-per-hour winds in mobile home parks, we are going to have fatalities.” Sheriff William D. Snyder, Martin County, FL

Weapons and Weather: Hurricane Matthew and Guns

When hurricanes hit, the firearms community talk usually turns to prepping for weather and defense against looting. There’s also a suspicious eye kept on anti-gun politicians using tragedy-opportunities to grab guns, a’la the infamous declaration by New Orleans Superintendent P. Edwin Compass’ during Hurricane Katrina: “No one will be able to be armed…Guns will be taken.”

With Hurricane Matthew battering the States today, there’s been plenty of news of interest to firearms owners beyond what the Weather Channel might normally report on— including ramifications directly impacting the industry, such as the closure of the Daniel Defense Georgia-based manufacturing facility (see below).

Hurricane Matthew is shaping up to be a large scale, Category 4 assault on the shorelines of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Initially a Category 4 hurricane, it was downgraded by the National Hurricane Center to a Category 3 storm (approximately 120mph winds) earlier this morning.

It has already caused devastating damage in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and well over 100 deaths in Haiti. It claimed its first victim in the United States last night when high winds prevented emergency responders from reaching a woman suffering cardiac arrest in St. Lucie County, FL.

Though the storm had yet to hit its hardest, Florida Power and Light reported last night that more than 20,000 customers were already without power last night. It expects 2.5 million statewide outages in the aftermath of the storm, and thus far those estimates seem to be on the low side. Matthew arrived this morning with winds reaching 145 mph, and some predictions it would even reach Category 5 strength (157 mph or higher), though that danger appears to have abated. The outer eye wall has hit Daytona Beach not too long ago.

Regardless of whether Florida gets a direct, lasting hit from Matthew, its potential damage has been described as “catastrophic.”

Evacuations are under way in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. While the gun world is not where most expect to see their weather reports come from, a press release from rifle maker Daniel Defense recently made the rounds, letting ther customers know of the situation at their facilities. It advised that they were bugging out and that production would be halted until power and worker safety were assured after the storm passes.

As CEO Marty Daniel wrote to update his clients,

“…the Georgia and South Carolina coast is in the direct path of Hurricane Matthew. Yesterday at 3PM, we ceased operations at our Ridgeland, South Carolina facility after Governor Haley issued a mandatory evacuation. At 3PM today, we will suspend operations of our corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in Black Creek, Georgia. Naturally, the safety of our employees and their families is first priority. As of now, the plan is to reopen Sunday, assuming there is power to the facilities.”

Weapons and Weather: Hurricane Matthew and Guns

Disasters typically bring out the best and the worst in communities. On the “best” side of that equation, the call to help after the inevitable damage is already being broadcast.

“This is one of the most dire predictions I've ever given for a hurricane forecast,” NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins said. “The devastation that is left behind is going to take us weeks to clean up, and a lot of people are going to need help.”

Relief agencies are gearing up to assist. President Obama has already signed an emergency declaration to speed federal aid to the state and has spoken with the governors of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina.

Thankfully, there have been some efforts made to avoid the “worst” side of things. Although looting is somewhat synonymous with hurricanes, this year there is a new law to help keep citizens safe during the disaster.

Said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-Petersburg last year when it was passed,

“With the signing of SB 290, all lawful gun owners will be permitted to carry a concealed weapon if they are complying with a mandatory evacuation during a state of emergency. I’m proud to have sponsored this bipartisan bill ensuring that we have the right to protect our families during these sometimes chaotic times.”

Following the abuses of power during Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, where citizens had guns taken away and proclamations were made attempting to repeal Second Amendment rights, at least some representatives from both parties have apparently thought better of things. As Brandes notes, “…it's critical that our rights are protected during natural disasters.”

There are many gun owners who may never have bothered or  even needed to obtain a concealed carry permit. Thankfully, HB296/SB290 addresses the issue of carrying a weapon, and the right to self defense, during times of emergency relocation and disaster, when homes and vehicles are at risk of looting.

HB296/SB 290 giving temporary ability to carry concealed handguns without a permit. It gives a 48-hour temporary amnesty of permit-less concealed carry to lawful gun owners after evacuation orders are given.

This law’s passage is a comforting contrast to the abuses of Louisiana’s politicians during Katrina. The NRA has an excellent article on the history of that event here if you're interested. It is well worth reading

Politicians like New Orleans Superintendent Warren Riley who said, “During a circumstance like (a hurricane), we cannot allow people to walk the street carrying guns…as law enforcement officers we will confiscate the weapon if a person is walking down the street and they may be arrested,” should be kept in check. Florida appears to be taking the right steps to make it so.

The thoughts and prayers of RECOIL remain with everyone affected.

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