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Mayor in MS temporarily bans open gun carry over coronavirus

Open carry at a Free State Project meeting in Lancaster, New Hampshire in 2009. (Lucio Eastman/Wikimedia Commons)
April 29, 2020

The mayor of Jackson, Miss. has temporarily suspended the open carry of firearms via executive order due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba released a video announcing his signing of the executive order, adding that he made the decision after two children were killed amid the pandemic.

“In this moment of great distress and economic tension it is important that we eliminate the ability for illegal weapons to inflict irreparable harm on our City,” Lumumba said, adding that he has “no principal disagreement with the Second Amendment.”

Lumumba cited state statute § 45-7-7 that permits mayors to prohibit certain activities during a civil emergency. The statute allows the “discontinuance of selling, distributing, dispensing or giving away of any firearms of ammunition” as well as “other orders … necessary for the protection of life and property.”

However, Lumumba went one step further in calling for the entire repeal of the state’s open-carry law, as well as promoting a petition for the state to do so.

“While this order will only be in effect for a short period of time, I am calling on all Jackson residents, and all state and local leaders to act in the interest of our innocent children. Repeal the Open Carry law which makes it impossible for law enforcement to root out illegal firearms on our streets,” Lumumba said.

“Prior to the open carry law when Jackson officers saw a gun in plain view it gave them the probable cause to cease the weapon and determine whether it was an illegal weapon or not,” Lumumba said. “The open carry law not only provides protection to individuals who are armed with illegal weapons, it creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the community. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that the open carry law has led an increase in gun violence into our communities.”

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch wrote a letter to Lumumba calling on him to repeal his temporary ban on open carry.

“The governor’s proclamation does not authorize you to suspend the right to open carry, or any other statute or constitutional provision governing firearm possession,” Fitch said in the letter, according to WAPT.

“Mississippians enjoy the right to lawfully open carry in all of Mississippi’s 82 counties and in every municipality in the state. The city of Jackson is no exception,” Fitch said. “The city lacks statutory authority to suspend a state statute or constitutional provision. Accordingly, I ask that you rescind the order immediately.”

The Mississippi Justice Institute has filed a lawsuit against Lumumba on behalf of State Rep. Dana Criswell, calling Lumumba’s order unconstitutional and illegal, WAPT reported.