A History Lesson for the U.S. Virgin Islands

A very wise saying warns, “Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.”

Apparently, the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands needs a reminder of what happens when you disarm good citizens.


On Monday, Gov. Kenneth Mapp signed an executive order instructing Adjutant General Deborah Howell “to take whatever actions she considers necessary to carry out the assigned mission” of maintaining and restoring public order in the face of and aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s impending destruction.

The order states, in part, that as of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the AG “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.”

In other words, the Governor is telling the national guard to seize guns and ammunition from his citizens in order to “maintain the health, welfare, and safety of the people of the Virgin Islands.

Well isn’t that special….

Perhaps Mapp is forgetting what happened back in the late 80’s, and how relying solely on the government to maintain law and order doesn’t always work out as planned.

In September 1989, Hurricane Hugo – a category 5 storm at sea that slammed the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and South Carolina as a category 4 – was the strongest storm to strike the United States since Camille hit the Louisiana and Texas coast in 1969.

The hurricane destroyed nearly all of the life support systems for a population of over 50,000; including the fresh water supply, the island’s electrical generation capability, and the fuel supply. Food was limited to that in stores and warehouses, and much of that was either damaged or destroyed. Telephone lines were down, and over ninety percent of all buildings destroyed or damaged. Every hospital and medical clinic was either severely damaged or completely destroyed. Every structure of wood or metal, including the homes of the island’s poor, was destroyed. Fuel spills created hazardous environmental conditions.

The ensuing chaos and total breakdown of law and order resulted in widespread looting and general lawlessness throughout the island.

The police department was in complete disarray. Additionally, from 200 to 600 prisoners had escaped from the island’s only territorial prison. Initially, beginning on 16 September 1989, Governor Alexander Farrelly called up troops under a Territorial mobilization.

On 20 September 1989 via EO 12690, President Bush invoked the Insurrection Act to federalize the National Guard to impose order following violence and looting in the wake of Hurricane Hugo. Virgin Islands reported 954 ARNG and 29 ANG personnel mobilized for the year.

President George Bush ordered federal forces to St. Croix to suppress the violence, protect property, and restore law and order. Elements of the Army, Navy and the Coast Guard, along with a contingent from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) formed Joint Task Force (JTF) 40 for Operation Hawkeye.

The NRA-ILA condemned Gov. Mapp’s executive order and threatened a lawsuit to fight the unconstitutional measure.

“People need the ability to protect themselves during times of natural disaster,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director, National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. “This dangerous order violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts their lives at risk.” 

“When 911 is non-existent 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 continued. “The NRA is prepared to pursue legal action to halt Gov. Mapp’s dangerous and unconstitutional order.”

Hear, hear!

In stark contrast to Governor Mapp’s reaction to Irma, many Floridians are looking to take advantage of the emergency concealed carry law signed in 2015 by Governor Rick Scott. The law created an exception to Florida’s prohibition against concealed carry of a weapon without a permit by allowing adults not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm to temporally do so while evacuating, under certain conditions.

“People who may legally possess a firearm may carry concealed or carry on or about the person while ‘in the act of evacuating’ under a mandatory evacuation order during a declared state of emergency,” Marion Hammer, executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida and a former National Rifle Association, told Guns.com Tuesday. “So far, even though the Governor has declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties, I am unaware of any mandatory evacuation order.”

“To be clear, if you’re ordered to leave your home and you’re packing up your car with your family, pets, and valuables, you can and should bring a firearm,” gun writer Lee Williams said in his weekly Sarasota Herald-Tribune column.

The government should only do for the people what they cannot do for themselves, in my opinion. Armed citizens, as we’ve seen in Texas and across the US after various natural disasters, are able to keep the peace throughout their neighborhoods and communities.

I’ll put my money on the citizens – it’s our right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and to protect our families and loved ones.

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