Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba released a video on Friday, April 24, announcing that he has signed an order “suspending” open carry in the city due to COVID-19. As nonsensical as that sounds, it gets worse.
Mississippi has a state preemption law, § 45-9-51 which is why Mayor Lumumba cannot do pull something like this normally. While § 45-9-53(1)(d) allows some limited municipal restrictions, it does not permit the cancellation of open carry of lawfully possessed firearms.
Most troubling is Lumumba’s assertion that he has this authority now under § 45-7-17(7)(e). § 45-7-17 doesn’t seem to exist. Codes in Chapter 7 relate to County Patrol Officers.
Did the mayor misspeak, despite appearing to be reading from a script in the video? At this writing, the order is not available on the city web site.
Perhaps; there is a § 45-17-7.
After proclamation of a civil emergency, the chief administrative officer may at his discretion, in the interest of public safety and welfare:
(a) Order the closing of all retail liquor stores.
(b) Order the discontinuance of the sale of intoxicating liquor and/or beer.
(c) Order the discontinuance of the manufacture, transfer, use, possession or transportation of a Molotov cocktail or any other device, instrument or object designed to explode or produce uncontained combustion.
(d) Order the discontinuance of selling, distributing, dispensing or giving away of any firearms or ammunition of any character whatsoever.
(e) Issue such other orders as are necessary for the protection of life and property.
Under that code, Lumumba can only block firearm transfers the duration of a declared emergency. Under § 45-9-51 and § 45-9-53, he cannot block lawful carry of lawfully owned firearms. He appears to be using the incredibly broad “such other orders” clause as justification for this move.
I’ve reached out to Mayor Lumumba and his chief of staff. Neither have responded. I foresee lawsuits in his immediate future.
Update, 7:30PM: The video has been pulled down by the uploader. There is still no order or announcement of the order on the city web site. The Mayor has still not replied to inquiries. They may be backing down, after issues with the order were pointed out to the Mayor’s office and the police department.
Update, 7:42PM: A new version of the video has been posted. It leaves out the citation of a nonexistent code, and shows the text of 45-17-7. He’s still going for it.