Musings on Disasters and Firearms

One of our field editors stops by to discuss his role amid a significant disaster, and how it resembles what we are dealing with currently.

What is going on today with the pandemic and the relationships among firearms and government officials mirrors an experience I had in early 2009. At that time, I was working for a Midwestern state public-health agency. When the so-called misnamed swine flu (really There are many similarities between disasters then and now. Mike Sampson had a key role when the swine flu struck. What he saw then mirrors what we are seeing today.a novel influenza A virus, H1N1) hit the United States, I assumed a lead state role in responding to the viral incursion. What happened then presents an eerily similar situation we find ourselves in today.

Quickly, the Governor's office and Department of Public Safety met with my agency, each wanting their own turf. This is what we have now. A real surprise, huh? So, we set a small-group meeting so everyone could have a piece of the action.

I had arranged, with the Governor's blessing, to consolidate the state's anti-viral medications and personal protective equipment into a single underground and secured location.

Additionally, I made sure one, count 'em one, state patrol vehicle, and one officer could control the lone entrance and exit to the facility. That was instituted immediately.

We surmised the Governor was going to ask for a disaster declaration shortly. At our first joint meeting was to assess response and logistics, the public safety folks surprised me with this question, "What kind of guns do the police have." I answered as I knew, and there was no invited rep from state patrol at the meeting. I said, “The handguns are Glock pistols in .40 caliber. The shotguns in the cruisers are Mossberg 500s.” The look of amazement still brings a chuckle after 11 years. I then asked, “Why is that information needed for our response.” The answer, “Well, we need to know, and also, what kind of ammunition do the police use?”

I replied, “I would bet most police use hollowpoint ammo for the pistols and 12-gauge buckshot for the shotguns, but we sure can find out more if you want specifics and the brand names. And if we check some more, the patrol also has rifles in most of the cruisers.”

Fortunately, I fielded no further questions on that topic. Still, a state patrol captain got a good laugh when I later briefed him on the discussion. He followed up with, “So what good was the firearms and ammo question?” “Wish I knew,” I replied, “but this is our government, right?”

Within two days of the meeting, the Governor issued the declaration, and we began distributing supplies statewide from the cache, with law-enforcement security for transport and on-premises storage in the counties.

Looking back, I see all too many parallels in state and local governmental actions now regarding firearms and ammo. Most likely, this is an ongoing gun control mechanism that I saw in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I saw the same thing from the U.S. Virgin Islands governor when I deployed to Puerto Rico in 2017 for Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and firearms restrictions got put in place.

At least we now are seeing some reversals as firearms and ammo become more “essential” in this pandemic crisis as jurisdictions free prisoners and reduce enforcement activities. Indeed these all are political and social-distancing concerns.

Somehow, governments always feel compelled to question 2nd Amendment rights, apparently “to promote public safety,” in any crisis. My take on that? “Stay safe, be prepared.” ~ Mike

Mike Sampson
Mike now calls Northwestern Arkansas home, but has lived and worked in several states. He has been an independent contractor and consultant since 2006 specializing in risk management, emergency management and training. In addition to work as a law-enforcement planner and technical writer with the Boise, Idaho, Police Department, he has experience in journalism, crop and animal agriculture, dryland farming for 20 years in western Kansas, plant and animal diseases, pandemic influenza, agroterrorism, bioterrorism, food safety and healthcare marketing.

He has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and has newspaper and agency writing and editing experience. At Washington State University in Pullman, he earned a master’s degree emphasizing adult education and communications, with minors in mourning dove, chukar partridge, pheasant and mountain quail on the breaks of the Snake River.

While living in Lander, WY, Mike provided photographic coverage of the One Shot Antelope Hunt for three years, and got to meet and accompany folks such as Chuck Yeager, Carroll Shelby, Buzz Aldrin, Dale Robertson and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf on their hunts. 

In addition, Mike is a Federal Emergency Management Agency certified instructor and has worked and taught for state and federal agencies. He has responded to seven presidentially declared disasters, including Hurricanes Irma and Maria when they struck Puerto Rico in 2017. He also has worked and taught in Africa and Southeast Asia. Check his website at