Post Hurricane Katrina is a great example of State of Exception. After the hurricane occurred in 2005, there was in a state of emergency and New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass ordered the local police, U.S Army National Guards, and Deputy U.S Marshals to go into homes and take away fire arms because they did not want anyone to be armed. After the hurricane, the residents of where New Orleans were vulnerable and it was decided that people being armed during the state of vulnerability would not be the greatest idea. There was controversy over confiscating the weapons because many people used their weapons as protection for life and property whereas the people that had their weapons confiscated were left to defend themselves. It was thought that taking away the legally owned weapons would reduce the “near anarchy” in the city and proposed the policy of “only law enforcement are allowed to carry weapons” (Liberman, 2007). It was thought that confiscating the weapons would decrease violence and civil disobedience. The seizures of the weapons were done without a warrant and in some cases with excessive force. The Louisiana legislator Steve Scalise introduced the Louisiana House Bill 760 which prohibited confiscation of firearms in a state of emergency unless the seizure is pursuant to the investigation of a crime, or if the seizure is necessary to prevent immediate harm to the officer or another individual. President Bush signed the Bill into law on October 9, 2006.
Post Hurricane Katrina relates to the State of Exception because as the German theorist Carl Schmitt proposed that “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception” by which he means that sovereign is able to decide the case of exception and here the exception of confiscating weapons without a warrant is due to the state of emergency. In terms of “the state of exception is normalized”, Hurricane Katrina relates to Agamben’s policy of it being “normal” because the “modern governments claim – and exercise – the power to displace the rule of law in order to resolve certain problems, generally security” (Larsen, 2010) because the purpose of confiscating the firearms without a warrant was for the security of other individuals (perhaps the people who didn’t have firearms) because under those conditions, some people may have been emotionally unstable and/or could have been paranoid, for example, if someone were to come to their house they could have gotten scared and mistakenly shot. Hurricane Katrina result of confiscating weapons to reduce violence and civil disobedience is also an example of Ericson’s policy of how counter-laws involve the enactment of new laws “to erode or eliminate traditional principles, standards, and procedures of criminal law that get in the way of pre-empting imagined sources of harm” (Pavlich, 2007: 24). This applies in terms of the Louisiana House Bill-760 being signed after the controversy occurring because people felt that they could not protect themselves and their were being violated. The controversy caused quite a ruckus which resulted in the U.S District Courts order to return all the seized arms.
The exercise of sovereign power is justified by the officials while they state that it is not something they want to be doing, walking the streets of the U.S and confiscating weapons without a warrant, but it is something that has to be done in order to keep everyone safe. The following short link shows officials having to confiscate the weapons of the neighbourhoods that haven’t even been flooded because of the safety of the ones that are vulnerable to go to those areas; even wealthy neighbourhoods that weren’t flooded had their guns confiscated that he had to protect themselves for the same reasons. In the second video that I have attached shows Superintendent Eddie Compass explaining that the police department is under extreme stress, many officers have died, quit, and/or have not been accounted for yet, but the ones that have been accounted for are considered to be heroes because they have “secured” the areas [by taking away the firearms]. Superintendent Compass also justifies the actions by explaining how they don’t have the necessities to do the things they are expected to do in quick manners. For example, they didn’t have food, water, electricity, they didn’t even have working radio system to communicate with each other. So really, not only was confiscating the firearms a good thing for the residents that were affected but it was also a reasonable thing to do for the officials because, as talked about in the second video, even with firearms confiscated, there were still shooting wars happening which put the public in danger. If the guns weren’t confiscated it is possible that there would have been more gun wars and more deaths occurring.
Larsen, Mike. (2013). Handout “Agamben: Bare Life, The Camp, and States of Exception”.
Class of November 27, 2013.
Liberman, David. (2007). “Big Sandys Comin’- Lessons from Katrina”. Retrieved on December
Pavlich, G. (2007). Law and Society. Don Millis, ON: Oxford University Press.