May 17, 2006 — -- The National Rifle Association is fired up.
ABC News has learned that the powerful gun group will launch a new campaign on Thursday when it convenes its annual convention in Milwaukee. It will demand that police chiefs and mayors pledge to never confiscate weapons from law-abiding citizens in the wake of disasters such as hurricanes or terrorist attacks.
"We are going to ask every mayor and every police chief in America to take a pledge that they will never go door to door confiscating firearms from law-abiding citizens," Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, told ABC News in an exclusive interview airing this evening on "World News Tonight."
"We're also going to go to state legislatures and Congress to pass legislation to make it a federal and a state crime for anyone that gives those orders and carries them out," he added.
The organization officials maintains that after Hurricane Katrina, law enforcement officers in Louisiana confiscated firearms from law-abiding gun owners
"We can't allow these local tyrannies to exist after disaster hits where they throw the Constitution out the window," LaPierre said. "That's what the police chief in New Orleans did."
And LaPierre said this issue is one that resonates with gun owners.
"The lesson of New Orleans is all the people that said the police, the government would protect you could not be trusted. All the politicians that said 'We'll be there' couldn't keep that promise," LaPierre said. "Citizens were completely on their own against robbers, against looters, and if they didn't have a firearm they were completely defenseless against the bad guys."
The NRA, one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in Washington, said its members are outraged by stories of rampant gun confiscation by New Orleans law enforcement in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"If we found a person who was walking the street with a weapon, then did we disarm them? Did we take the weapon? Did we arrest them? Yes, we did," said Warren Riley, superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department. "We were not going into homes and disarming citizens and taking their weapons."
Louisiana law enforcement officials acknowledged that some guns were taken but said the NRA has misunderstood how widespread confiscation was and that there was no official order.
But the NRA pointed to comments made by the police chief at the time, Eddie Compass, who said "no one" could be armed. "We'll take the weapons," Compass said.
Gun control advocates greeted the news of the NRA's new campaign with outrage.
"This shows the NRA at its worst, at its most extreme," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a longtime advocate of gun control. "To put handcuffs around police officers who are doing their jobs for some crazy way-out-there view that police officers want to confiscate guns of law-abiding citizens is to make a mistake. If I were Mayor Bloomberg or [New York] Police Chief [Ray] Kelly, or any other law enforcement officer, I'd say to the NRA, 'Make my day.'"
The NRA intends to make this a major issue in the midterm elections this November. The NRA said that starting in October, it would buy television time in targeted states to run an NRA television show that would include testimonies from Louisiana gun owners about gun confiscation.
The NRA's opponents said that as powerful and successful as the gun lobby has proved itself to be, it often fails when it takes on law enforcement.
For more on the story, watch "World News Tonight" this evening for an exclusive look at this new highly controversial issue.
Keith Summa contributed to this report.