The mayor of Champaign, Illinois has signed a declaration of a local emergency that she claims gives her the power to ban the sale of firearms and ammunition, as well as seize private property and ban the sale of food, water, fuel, and clothing.
Katie Pavlich at Townhall has more details on the order, which seems to violate the Constitution in any number of ways. Check out some of the powers the mayor has granted to herself.
(2) Order a general curfew applicable to such geographical areas of the City or to the City as a whole, as the Mayor deems advisable, and applicable during such hours of the day or night as the Mayor deems necessary in the interest of public safety and welfare.
(3) Order the closing of all retail liquor stores, including taverns and private clubs or portions thereof wherein the consumption of intoxicating liquor and beer is permitted;
(4) Order the discontinuance of the sale of alcoholic liquor by any wholesaler or retailer;
(5) Order the discontinuance of selling, distributing, or giving away gasoline or other liquid flammable or combustible products in any container other than a gasoline tank properly affixed to a motor vehicle;
(6) Order the discontinuance of selling, distributing, dispensing or giving away of explosives or explosive agents, firearms or ammunition of any character whatsoever;
(7) Order the control, restriction and regulation within the City by rationing, issuing quotas, fixing or freezing prices, allocating the use, sale or distribution of food, fuel, clothing and other commodities, materials, goods or services or the necessities of life;
(8) (a) Order City employees or agents, on behalf of the City, to take possession of any real or personal property of any person, or to acquire full title or such lesser interest as may be necessary to deal with a disaster or emergency, and to take possession of and for a limited time, occupy and use any real estate to accomplish alleviation of the disaster, or the effects thereof;
(b) In the event any real or personal property is utilized by the City, the City shall be liable to the owner thereof for the reasonable value of the use or for just compensation as the case may be.
(9) Order restrictions on ingress or egress to parts of the City to limit the occupancy of any premises;
(10) To make provision for the availability and use of temporary emergency housing;
(11) Temporarily suspend, limit, cancel, convene, reschedule, postpone, continue, or relocate all meetings of the City Council, and any City committee, commission, board, authority, or other City body as deemed appropriate by the Mayor.
(12) Require closing of business establishments.
(13) Prohibit the sale or distribution within the City of any products which could be employed in a manner which would constitute a danger to public safety.
(14) Temporarily close any and all streets, alleys, sidewalks, bike paths, public parks or public ways.
(15) Temporarily suspend or modify, for not more than sixty (60) days, any regulation or ordinance of the City, including, but not limited to, those regarding health, safety, and zoning. This period may be extended upon approval of the City Council.
(16) Suspend or limit the use of the water resources or other infrastructure.
(17) Control, restrict, allocate, or regulate the use, sale, production, or distribution of food, water, fuel, clothing, and/or other commodities, materials, goods, services and resources.
This is absolutely insane, and it’s only going to fuel panic in the city. It should also be the subject of an immediate lawsuit. Not only does it violate the Second Amendment rights of residents of Champaign, the order also states that the city can seize any real property and occupy it during the state of emergency. In Washington State, we’ve seen King County purchase a hotel to use as a quarantine facility for coronavirus patients, but the mayor’s declaration would allow her to simply take any and all private property (in a city, by the way, that hasn’t reported a single coronavirus case).
I spoke with Ira J. Bishop, who runs Personal Firearms Sales & Service in Champaign County, outside of the city limits. He’s relieved that he operates beyond the reach of the mayor, and says to his knowledge the only gun stores in the city are Gander Mountain and a Field & Stream store, owned by Dick’s Sporting Goods. As a practical matter, any enforcement of this provision of the declaration would only hurt those stores, as gun owners who live in the city could travel outside to purchase a firearm. That is, if the mayor hasn’t closed all the streets, which her declaration supposedly gives her the authority to do as well.
The American people are looking for leadership right now, not dictatorship. We all understand, or should, the idea of social distancing. We all understand the need to flatten the curve and delay the onset of infection for as long as possible in order not to overwhelm the healthcare system. We even understand, or should, that this is going to have an impact on jobs and the ability to provide for their family. This is a national emergency, as the president declared today. It does not mean, however, that the Constitution of the United States can be suspended by the mayor of Champaign, Illinois.
Again, the mayor hasn’t tried to implement any of these breathtakingly unconstitutional measures yet, but I hope someone in Champaign files a lawsuit challenging this before she tries. For other mayors out there, focus on the actual public health crisis instead of trying for an utterly insane power grab, or else risk ramping up the panic and fear in your community and opening yourself up to a lawsuit limiting your authority (and hopefully ending your political career).