By: Teresa Mull
GPM reported recently that:
Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, in an unabashed, unsanctioned power grab, announced that his citizens’ rights to open carry have been “suspended” for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
Lumumba claims his right to take such action comes from Mississippi Statute 45-17-7, which allows chief administrative officers to implement measures that would protect the public during a crisis. One of the measures granted by the statute prohibits the transfer of firearms.
Another measure states that a mayor may “issue such other orders as are necessary for the protection of life and property.” It appears that Mayor Lumumba is using this dangerously vague wording to his advantage. Preemption laws in the state, however, prohibit any mayor from simply overruling state law as it pertains to gun ownership and most other things.
State Rep. Dana Criswell, however, stood up to Lumumba by filing a lawsuit with The Mississippi Justice Institute (MJI). Because Criswell so often carries out business with the state in Jackson, he is considered a “plaintiff with standing.”
“[Lumumba] had no law to suspend, because there is no open carry law in Mississippi; it’s actually part of our state constitution that says the only thing that can be controlled is by the legislature and is concealed carry – so not open carry,” Criswell told GPM. “I knew immediately his order was invalid and in violation of the state constitution. I’ve watched throughout this coronavirus and seen so many times that local officials just seem to lose their mind with the power they have during an emergency, and they start trying to ban anything and everything, and I just thought it was time to take a stand.”
Rep. Criswell - photo from Facebook
Criswell says after Lumumba’s order expired, he did not renew it, “so to some degree, our case is resolved.” Criswell said he is hoping, however, for a stronger resolution that prevents such an infringement from happening again.
“The lawyers are trying to decide how to pursue it,” Criswell said. “We’re hoping for a resolution by the mayor to show he understands that his action was an illegal order and he’s not going to do it again.”
“Kudos to Rep. Criswell for taking up this fight and helping force the mayor of Jackson to back down from his illegal open carry ban,” remarked Brenden Boudreau, Director of Field Operations for the National Association for Gun Rights. “Rep. Criswell has a strong track record of fighting for the Second Amendment, having helped lead the fight for Mississippi to become a Constitutional Carry state back in 2016.”
Criswell says the Second Amendment was designed for situations such as the coronavirus crisis.
“When there is a crisis, we have to have a way to protect ourselves and our families,” said Criswell. “It has become abundantly apparent through this that you can’t always depend on the local police. That isn’t any kind of negative on the police, they’re just not available and not there to protect everybody all the time. We’ve seen police departments – just a couple miles away from me in from Memphis, Tennessee, they said they’re not going to respond to some calls. The police are busy other places, and it becomes your responsibility to protect yourself and your family.”
Criswell says allowing the government to tell you if and how you can defend yourself is a dangerous precedent to set.
“In a crisis, to allow government to take away that right, makes it doubly egregious, because you need it now more than any other time,” Criswell said. “Our Second Amendment right is the foundation – it is what gives the people the ability to be independent and free. If you don’t have the ability to protect yourself and your family, you are dependent on the government to do that, and that makes you dependent on the government for everything.”
Contrary to the “Never let a crisis go to waste” mantra embraced by the left, Criswell says this crisis is a chance for conservatives to lead.
“There is an opportunity for those of us who believe in the constitution and our freedoms to use this pandemic, this economic crisis, this overreach of government that we’ve seen over the past few months, to educate people as to why it’s so important to retain our freedoms,” Criswell said. “We’ve just got to get conservatives to speak up and point out the violations the average person is seeing and experiencing right now.”