According to an announcement on wftv.com, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has encouraged gun owners in Florida who are evacuating to secure their firearms before they leave for fear of looting after the imminent hurricane damage.
“In the storms, we’ll go back to Harvey, where again, people are taking advantage of the fact that there’s no one in the home,” ATF Special Agent Daryl McCrary said in the story. “They’re going out, sometimes in the midst of the storm, or very soon after the storm, and they’re looting.”
Firearms are major targets for looters, as they hold their value well and can easily be found among many homes. Consequently, gun stores are also major targets to looters in disaster situations.
“If you have firearms that are not secure in your residence, those firearms are going to be taken, and there’s a high probability those firearms are going to be used in crimes, in violent crimes, and we’re trying to prevent that,” McCrary said.
While there are still no mandatory evacuation orders in any areas, they are expected to come very quickly. McCrary has encouraged gun owners to plan ahead for securing their firearms, in case they must leave with short notice.
“We’re going to have people under mandatory evacuation that may have to leave their homes quickly,” he said. “We’re asking, and highly suggesting, that they have a firearms record, that is, that they can use their mobile phones to take a picture of that firearm, so that they would be able to identify it.” Those who are victims of firearms theft can contact the ATF at 202-648-7200 or 888-930-9275.
A law passed in 2015 may temporarily allow state residents to carry a concealed firearm with a permit as the hurricane has the entire state in its projected path. The law was created in order to provide an exception to Florida’s prohibition against concealed carry without a permit temporarily during a crisis evacuation in order to protect the property and lives of affected personal. In order to qualify, a legal owner of a gun must be “in the act” of evacuation under mandatory order during a state of emergency. Marion Hammer, executive director of the United Sportsmen of Florida said, “So far, even though the Governor has declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties, I am unaware of any mandatory evacuation orders.”
If such an order is given, the law says legal gun owners can carry during a 48-hour window. However, the governor can issue an extension if need be. As of right now, the National Hurricane Center is describing Irma, a Category 5 storm, as the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, with winds reaching an astonishing 185 mph. Gov. Rick Scott has asked President Donald Trump to issue a state of emergency for Florida and has directed all 7,000 of the state’s National Guard members to report by Friday.
Gov Rick Scott discussing storm impact and responses (photo credit: wspynews.com)
“With Hurricane Irma now a category 5 storm, we must do all we can to prepare our families and communities for any potential impact from this major weather event,” Scott said earlier this week. “We do not know the exact path of this storm, but weather can change in an instant and while we hope for the best, we must prepare for the worst.”