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New Orleans mayor authorizes ability to ban gun sales during coronavirus emergency if city desires

Wall of rifles at a gun store. (Michael Saechang/Flickr)
March 17, 2020

The city of New Orleans, La. issued an emergency declaration over the coronavirus that gives the city the emergency authority to limit or ban outright the sale or transportation of firearms, explosives or combustibles during the emergency period.

Democratic New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell added a proclamation to the emergency declaration on Monday that allows for limits on the sale and transportation of firearms and other items deemed a potential safety threat within her jurisdiction.

“The emergency authority is hereby empowered, if necessary, to suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transporting of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives and combustibles,” the proclamation reads.

The term “emergency authority” is described in the proclamation as Superintendents of Police and Fire under the supervision of the mayor.

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The proclamation describes potential rules around evacuation orders and further provides for police and fire authorities to “take all necessary steps within legal bounds to ensure that no looting or arson occurs within any area ordered evacuated.”

Mayor Cantrell’s order also includes provisions that would allow the city to control routes of travel to and from the city and makes provisions to allocate temporary emergency housing.

Among her reasons for adding the proclamation, Mayor Cantrell said the outbreak of coronavirus, COVID-19, and the subsequent potential for harm to the public “are now imminent and emergency action must be taken to prevent death or injury of persons and to preserve the lives and property of the people of the City of New Orleans.”

The Second Amendment Foundation (SFA) raised issue with the new emergency proclamation, noting in a press statement that it had sued the city for efforts by the City of New Orleans to confiscate firearms during Hurricane Katrina.

“Following Hurricane Katrina, we sued the city when then-Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration began confiscating firearms from law-abiding citizens for no good reason. The federal court ordered the city to cease confiscations,” wrote SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “We sued New Orleans then, and we’ll do it again. The presence of a nasty disease does not suspend any part of the Bill of Rights, no matter what some municipal, state or even federal politician may think.”

On Friday, the city of Champaign, Ill. issued its own emergency declaration, which authorized similar emergency powers including a potential ban on the sale of firearms. In a Saturday statement, the city of Champaign sought to clarify that it was not enacting its emergency ban on firearms sales.

“To be extremely clear, only provisions that are necessary to protect the public health in this situation will be enacted. The City Council would never take an action to violate anyone’s civil liberties,” the city’s statement read.

“It is unfortunate that the action taken by City Council to protect the community has been misconstrued in a time when we need clear, accurate information to protect public health,” the statement continued.