By MARY FOSTER
Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS- Under pressure from the National Rifle Association, police this week began returning guns confiscated after Hurricane Katrina.The police department is making the guns available three days a week. At the close of the second day Wednesday, police said only 17 of about 700 weapons had been returned.
Police and soldiers removed guns from houses after the storm flooded the city, and they confiscated guns from some evacuees.
The NRA and other groups sued the city, saying it took away people's means of protection amid the lawlessness that gripped New Orleans.
"Natural disasters may destroy great cities, but they do not destroy civil rights," said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, which joined the NRA in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was dropped after the city agreed to return the guns.
Some owners complained it was difficult to get them back. Gun owners must bring a bill of sale or an affidavit with the weapon's serial number. Police also are running criminal background checks on those claiming weapons.
Some gun owners found the weapons were evidence in a crime and not eligible for release. Others did not have the proper paperwork.
Percy Taplet, 73, said the National Guard and state police confiscated his shotgun when they arrived to tell him to leave his house. When he tried to get his gun back this week, police told him he would have to contact state police.
"I won't ever see that gun again, believe me," Taplet said. "It's gone like everything else in that storm."
Police Superintendent Warren Riley said police had legitimate reasons for confiscating weapons.
"We took guns that were stolen that were stashed in alleyways. If we went into an abandoned house and a gun was there, absolutely we took the weapons," he said. "Obviously there were looters out there. We didn't want some burglar or looter to have an opportunity to arm themselves."