Mississippi Councilman Wants To Shut Down Gun Shows To Fight Crime

I’m not sure if the local politicians in Jackson, Mississippi have a reading comprehension problem, or if they just don’t care that state law makes it clear that they don’t have the authority to regulate the sale or possession of firearms, but for the second time this year officials with the city are taking steps to infringe on the rights of residents. This time around, several city council members are talking about imposing a one-year moratorium on gun shows in the city.

The latest effort began with a recent editorial by Jackson city council member Aaron Banks, who complained that gun shows are helping to drive violent crime.

We understand that we cannot arrest our way out of what is happening in our beloved city; but we certainly can enforce the laws that are on the books and we certainly can work with every entity and branch of our judicial system to ensure that folk that continue to use violence as a means to an end, will face all of the necessary consequences afforded to them.

We must address gun shows and ensure that tougher penalties are put in place for those vendors that do not follow proper background checks and other protocol measures. We must work to strengthen our police department. We must find creative ways to address staffing issues, pay shortages and other things that hinder our men and women in blue from doing their jobs effectively. We must increase visibility.

Banks followed up that editorial with a call to halt gun shows in the city for at least a year in order to “investigate how and if gun vendors are conducting background checks on people who buy firearms from gun shows.” How the city would investigate gun shows if no gun shows are taking place is unclear, but the bigger problem for Banks and other anti-gun city officials is that Mississippi state law makes it crystal clear that they don’t have the authority to stop the shows from taking place.

In fact, as Y’all Politics points out, this isn’t the first time politicians in Mississippi’s capital city have tried to put an end to gun shows inside the city limits.

Most recently in April of 2006, the late Mayor Frank Melton attempted to prepare an executive order to outlaw gun shows within the city limits of Jackson. It was found that the mayor or council municipality has the authority to regulate any kind of activity like gun shows with the issuance of an executive order within Mississippi code sections 45-9-51 and 45-9-53.

In that particular situation, an opinion from then Attorney General Jim Hood stated:

“Therefore, it is the opinion of this office that the mayor may not lawfully ban gun shows by the issuance of an executive order or otherwise.”

Further back, in 1996, Jackson took the State of Mississippi to court over the matter. The Mississippi Supreme Court held firm that it is not within the city’s authority to enforce local zoning ordinances on state owned land, like the fairgrounds.

Jackson’s next gun show is scheduled for August 29th and 30th at the fairgrounds, which is under the control of the state Department of Agriculture. Commissioner Andy Gipson says the show will go on as planned.

“There is a gun show scheduled for next week at the fairgrounds. We are still having the gun show at the State Fairgrounds. The ordinance does not apply on property controlled by the State Department of Agriculture such as the Fairgrounds. Matter of fact, I don’t believe the City of Jackson can ban gun shows anywhere because of our state law. I helped write those laws in the Legislature.”

It’s high time that Jackson’s local leaders quit playing games with the Second Amendment and Mississippi’s firearms preemption law. Earlier this year Mayor Chukwe Lumumba tried to ban the open carrying of firearms inside the city limits, but a federal judge blocked the mayor from enforcing the policy and Lumumba withdrew his plan after the city council rejected the idea.

City leaders in Jackson need to be practical and pragmatic in their approach to driving down the escalating violence in their city by focusing on what can be done, not what they’d like to do if the Constitution and Mississippi state law were no consideration. That starts with a focus on the most violent offenders, and working with the U.S. Attorney to bring federal charges against those who are the nexus for too many shootings. Jackson is dealing with a crime problem, not a legal gun owner problem, and it’s time that local officials take the problem seriously.