Legal Reckoning for Jackson, MS Mayor’s Foolish Carry Ban
As we reported earlier, Chokwe Lumumba, the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, announced an executive order on April 24 as part of his response to the COVID-19 civil emergency. The order prohibited the “carrying of an unconcealed loaded or unloaded pistol or revolver or any other firearm, carried upon the person or in a sheath, belt holster or shoulder holster or in a purse, handbag, satchel, other similar bag or briefcase or fully enclosed case, with such pistol, revolver, or firearm being wholly or partially visible.”
Almost immediately, the Mississippi Justice Institute filed a federal lawsuit against the mayor and the city on behalf of State Rep. Dana Criswell, alleging that the mayor’s open carry ban was an illegal and unconstitutional attack on firearm rights.
Lynn Fitch, Mississippi’s Attorney General and the chief legal officer for the state, filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff. The brief notes that not only did Mayor Lumumba attempt to override state and federal laws, he failed to connect the need for the order to the COVID-19 pandemic, “the reason for enacting the civil emergency in the first place.” “Given the Mayor’s long-standing and well-documented opposition to Mississippians’ right to open carry, it is abundantly clear that the Order serves as pretext to achieve a goal he has sought for years, to extinguish the constitutional right to open carry.”
The litigation came to an exceptionally speedy halt on June 12, with the entry of an order and consent decree by Chief U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan, III that spelled out the terms of the settlement between the parties. Although the order means the underlying action is dismissed, the court retains the authority to enforce the order “in perpetuity.”
The consent decree includes the parties’ express recognition of “the importance of the rights” protected by the Second Amendment and the “right to keep and bear arms” provision of the Mississippi Constitution. The City of Jackson, the mayor and city council, and all other city agents or employees, are prohibited from adopting:
any orders, resolutions, ordinances, policies, or practices which have the purpose or effect of directly or indirectly prohibiting, restricting, or inhibiting the open carry of firearms, unless a statute or law of the State of Mississippi is adopted or amended to specifically prohibit, restrict, or inhibit the open carry of firearms in Mississippi, or to specifically authorize municipalities to do so, and such statute or law is not held violative of the United States Constitution or the Mississippi Constitution by a court of competent jurisdiction.
The mayor’s colleagues on the Jackson City Council had already made it clear they did not support the mayor’s actions, going so far as to pass a unanimous resolution on April 28 condemning his executive order. (Mayor Lumumba later dismissively referred to opponents of his order as “outside agitators,” which apparently included these local councillors.) Unsurprisingly, the consent decree contains a specific reference stressing that “the City Council disapproves of Mayor Lumumba’s executive order.”
That sentiment isn’t restricted to the city council. An online petition launched by Mayor Lumumba in April refers to his executive order and seeks to repeal open carry in Mississippi. As of mid-June, not only had the petition failed to reach the very modest target of 200 signatures, it was actually being used by many to express their support for open carry and their constitutional rights.
It is unclear what the mayor thinks of this court-ordered rebuke but it seems he’s practicing a bit of social distancing from the whole sorry affair. Although the City admitted the truth of the allegations made in the lawsuit as part of the consent decree – that the executive order violated the plaintiff’s rights under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, Article 3, Section 12 of the Mississippi Constitution, and Mississippi statutory law – the decree adds that Mayor Lumumba himself had “not filed responsive pleadings” in the litigation but nonetheless “denies Plaintiff’s allegations.”
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