Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Lumumba is quickly finding himself without many allies over his edict banning the open carrying of firearms in the city during its declared state of emergency. On Tuesday, the city council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the mayor’s actions, and on Wednesday the council took the step of hiring an attorney to represent them in a federal lawsuit filed over the ban.
Now the U.S. Attorney for southern Mississippi, Mike Hurst, has taken to the pages of the Clarion-Ledger newspaper to absolutely obliterate Lumumba’s argument about the supposed need to for his extraordinary and unconstitutional action.
It is false for the mayor to say that many of the killings in Jackson could have been avoided if people would not have had a right to openly carry firearms in Mississippi. Our office works closely with the Jackson Police Department, and I have not seen a single case where a killing in Jackson could have been prevented if open carry rights had been revoked. The mayor’s illegal order will only disarm law-abiding citizens and result in more victims.
Despite his statement to the contrary, the mayor also knows full well, as a former criminal defense attorney, that the right to openly carry firearms is not interfering with law enforcement taking criminals off the street.
For over 50 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized law enforcement to stop a person and investigate whether a crime has been committed based on a reasonable suspicion, a much lower standard than the probable cause standard mentioned by the mayor. Nothing prevents a police officer from asking questions of anyone, even with no basis for suspecting a crime has been committed.
Mayor Lumumba has claimed that the recent murders of a 5-year old and an 11-year old could have been prevented if the state didn’t allow for the open carry of firearms, but Hurt says that argument doesn’t hold up either.
It is also untrue for the mayor to say the right to openly carry a firearm provides protection to criminals. Criminals are trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves and being arrested. In all of our work with JPD, I cannot recall a single instance where a criminal was openly carrying a firearm and somehow that firearm magically protected him from arrest.
The recent murders of innocent children in Jackson is horrific, and the criminals who committed these vile acts should swiftly be brought to justice. However, despite what the mayor would have you believe, there is absolutely no connection between the right to openly carry a firearm and these tragic murders. None. The mayor is using an unrelated tragedy to further his political aims, and that is despicable.
Hurst says if Lumumba really wants to address violent crime in Jackson, he could start by addressing some of the issues in the Jackson Police Department instead of infringing on the rights of legal gun owners.
Our Jackson police officers are paid below the state average, our Jackson Police Department is operating at less than 50% capacity, and our mayor seeks to “name and shame” officers during administrative investigations. We can effectively fight violent crime by first taking care of our law enforcement heroes who take care of us.
History provides no support for the restrictions the mayor attempts to impose here, and the mayor’s justifications are not connected or substantiated in any way to support his illegal actions. Despite what the mayor says, the open carry rights of Mississippians have not led to an increase in gun violence in Jackson.
If we are to preserve the character of our nation and “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” we must remain vigilant and collectively act to protect and preserve the constitutional liberties and civil rights of every American, especially in times of crisis.
Lumumba’s order is set to expire today, but the mayor indicated earlier in the week that he planned on extending it. Without backing from the city council, and with opposition coming from the state’s Attorney General, the local U.S. Attorney, and the Mississippi Justice Institute, which filed the federal lawsuit taking on the mayor’s order, Lumumba could decide that he’s received enough free press from his stunt and allow the order to expire. Ultimately, I suspsect the mayor’s decision won’t come down to how to best protect the safety of the public, but the best way to fight a public relations battle.