Quis custodiet ipsos custodes’

Part One When frail, thin, grandmotherly Patty Konie answered the insistent knock at her door on 8 September 2005 she believed she had nothing to fear from her visitors. After all, they were all armed, uniformed police officers. Their job was to protect her from the criminals roaming freely through New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina, looting, burning, raping, stealing and murdering a citizenry. Those police officers, in fact, were there to inform Ms. Konie that she was required to evacuate her home. She refused. She had plenty of food and water, her house was in a section of the city not damaged by the storm, and she was unwilling to leave her two dogs to fend for themselves. She told the officers she would stay and take her chances. She was even prepared to defend herself, and showed the officers a pistol she was holding in her hand. What happened next defies belief. Although Ms. Konie did not threaten the officers in any way, did not point the gun at anyone or even put her finger on the trigger and told the officers it was unloaded, she was slammed up against a wall in her home and ridden to the floor by a man three times her size. She was punched in the face and otherwise beaten and finally arrested, her gun confiscated. Patty Konie was not the only honest, law-abiding New Orleans citizen treated so. Many others were subjected to similar violations. Robert Zas was leaving town with his family and others when he was stopped by police and asked if he had any weapons. He said that he did, and his party was forced to sit on the ground in front of his car while the vehicle was searched. Mr. Zas was dumbfounded when, upon finding a pistol and a .22 rifle in the car, the officers destroyed the weapons by smashing them against a curb. According to New Orleans resident Aston O’Dwyer, who was also relieved of his guns by police officers aiming semiautomatic weapons at him, ‘The post- Katrina world turned right and wrong on its head. Looters ruled this city for over a week, post-storm, without fear of law enforcement.’ Forget for a moment that this happened in America, a land supposedly governed by its citizens. Forget that we have laws pertaining to legal search and seizure, due process, and right to personal property. Forget that our Bill of Rights contains an amendment guaranteeing every citizen of this country the right, not privilege, of gun ownership. Even without all the reasons that what the police and National Guardsmen did in New Orleans was illegal, we all have a basic human need to defend ourselves. Besides all the other rights drowned in the flood waters that devastated that city, its citizens were stripped of that basic right to self defense. This would be a heinous travesty of justice at any time. There is no justification for treating human beings the way Ms. Konie was treated, beaten and debased in her own home just because she wanted to be left alone. Taking peoples’ property without their consent, at gunpoint. Leaving people defenseless against the criminal element of society. But this crime was made even more hideous by the fact of when and where it was perpetrated, in a city devastated by a natural disaster and beset by the dregs of humanity run amok. During that period there was virtually no police presence in New Orleans. The phone lines were down, so no one could call 911 for assistance. And the relatively few police officers who were there were ineffectual. Thieves, for example, dragged Vinnie Pervel from his van at gunpoint and stole his vehicle from him within yards of a police car facing the crime. The officers calmly drove away. Aston O’Dwyer did not exaggerate. So the police and National Guard, because of some misguided effort to make the city safer through disarmament, went into peoples’ homes and stopped them in their cars and confiscated their legally-owned firearms. And they did this at a time when those citizens needed their guns more than they ever had. The looters of the city could never hope to commit a crime so unforgivable. Some lucky residents escaped the dragnet, and managed to keep their guns. One woman later related how two huge young men accosted her in her car. They pounded on the hood and then walked around to her doors, one on each side of the car, shouting at her to unlock the vehicle. She pulled out a pistol and her assailants fled. Never believe the lie that guns do not deter crime. Other women were not so fortunate. A local gun store owner related that people were ‘scared to death’ because of the crime. He said, ‘Women came in who cried at the door, saying, ‘we need to buy some guns. We need to defend ourselves.’ Because of the police, many were unable to do that. The question asked by Juvenal, ca. 100 AD, would seem to be appropriate: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ Who will guard the guards’ ‘Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist. Write to him at P.O. Box 1600, Mason, Tex. 76856 or jeep@verizon.net.

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