New Orleans police officers began confiscating weapons from civilians in preparation for a forced evacuation of the last holdouts still living there, the New York Times reports. Police officers and federal agents scoured the city carrying assault rifles seeking residents who have holed up to avoid forcible eviction, as well as those who are still considering evacuating voluntarily to escape the city’s putrid waters. “Individuals are at risk of dying,” said police superintendent P. Edwin Compass III. “There’s nothing more important than the preservation of human life.” Police said that the search was about 80 percent done, and that afterward they would begin enforcing Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s order to remove residents by force.
Compass said that after a week of near anarchy in the city, no civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns, or other firearms of any kind. “Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons,” he said. The order apparently does not apply to the hundreds of security guards whom businesses and some wealthy individuals have hired to protect their property. The guards, who are civilians working for private security firms like Blackwater, are openly carrying M-16s and other assault rifles. New Orleans has turned into an armed camp, patrolled by thousands of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, as well as National Guard troops and active-duty soldiers. While armed looters roamed unchecked last week, the city is now calm.