In preparation for Hurricane Irma, Republican Gov. Kenneth Mapp of the U.S. Virgin Islands has instructed the region's National Guard to seize civilians' personal guns and ammunition supplies, a move that left some gun rights advocates furious and calling for change.
Mapp told Adjutant General Deborah Howell in a Sept. 4 executive order to "take whatever actions she considers necessary to carry out the assigned mission" of establishing and upholding order in the U.S. territory, reports NOLA. The Virgin Islands include the islands of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, among others.
"The Adjutant General is authorized and directed to seize arms, ammunition, explosives, incendiary material and any other property that may be required by the military forces for the performance of this emergency mission," Mapp explained in the order, which became law at midnight on Sept. 5, according to NOLA.
The NRA has condemned the move and vowed to fight it if necessary.
"People need the ability to protect themselves during times of natural disaster," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA'S Institute for Legislative Action, said in a Sept. 5 statement. "This dangerous order violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts their lives at risk."
The NRA fought a similar order by then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The order was halted and reversed, setting the stage for a 2006 law signed by President George W. Bush that restricts officials from seizing legally-owned guns during times of emergency.
"When 911 is nonexistent and law enforcement personnel are overwhelmed with search-and-rescue missions and other emergency duties, law-abiding American citizens must be able to protect their families and loved ones," Cox said. "The NRA is prepared to pursue legal action to halt Gov. Mapp's dangerous and unconstitutional order."
Irma has been declared a Category 5 storm, with winds reaching a sustained 185 mph, notes ABC News.
"The dangerousness of this event is like nothing we've ever seen," said Gov. Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico, according to ABC. "A lot of infrastructure won't be able to withstand this kind of force."
Residents expressed fear of the incoming storm, and many of them have cleaned out the water and gas supply at nearby businesses.
"The price you may pay for not evacuating is your life or serious physical harm," said Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, who evacuated the six southern islands in light of the threat.