Sutton: Jackson mayor uses crisis to infringe on constitutional rights


Lucio Eastman / CC BY

Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Lumumba bans the open carry of firearms amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

William Sutton, Staff Writer

“Breaking News”—something “brand new” is occurring in our government. Government officials are abusing a crisis to limit the personal freedoms of its citizens . The Patriot Act, suppression of free speech during both world wars, FDR’s court packing scandal, Japanese internment camps: all different instances where the civil government exploited a crisis to negatively affect the civil rights of the people.

The newest in this long line of exploitations comes in the form of an executive order passed by the current mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Lumumba. After two children were shot to death in mid April, the mayor released an executive order banning the open carry of firearms during the course of COVID-19 crisis. “The City of Jackson faces a significant challenge with illegal guns,” Lumumba told WLBT News. “Prior to the open carry law, when Jackson police officers saw a gun in plain view, it gave them probable cause to seize the weapon and determine if it was an illegal weapon or not. The open carry law not only provides protection to individuals who are armed with illegal weapons, it creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the community.” Despite the fact that this executive order will do little to nothing for the crime and murder rates, this order does attempt to address the crime in Jackson. The problem is that this executive order uses a crisis to facilitate government action that would have been heavily rejected beforehand.

Now, am I saying that the death should not be addressed? No. But the mere conceptualization of this bill negates whatever effect it was intended to have. The concept of Open Carry is a simple one: the weapon has to have at least part of the weapon or holster visible for the public eye to see. The weapon has to be easily seen, and any criminal worth his salt would not leave a weapon out in plain sight. Enacting a crime requires at least some level of subtlety, and this ban does not really affect the plans of those who are concealing a weapon anyway.

What this ban actually does, despite it saying that it causes the contrary, is to help bring about the atmosphere of fear and danger that Mayor Lumumba is fighting to destroy. Open carry is not for criminals, it’s for those attempting to protect themselves from criminals. Gas station workers, truck drivers and people who own local businesses are the people this ban targets. Yes, Jackson’s crime and murder rates are high, but limiting open carry only increases that crime rate. Open carry is a deterrent to crime and by banning open carry, this executive order puts many law abiding citizens in danger.

Yes, the deaths of these children and the COVID-19 pandemic are travesties, but banning open carry is not a solution. It only worsens the problem. Instead of infringing on the rights and safety of others, the people of Jackson should focus on the true root of the problem—poverty. The hardships of low-income neighborhoods contribute to high rates of crime, and the city of Jackson contains many of these low-income areas. Those who were wealthier left these places as the crime rates went up, and instead of reinvesting in their communities, moved to the more wealthy suburbs  surrounding Jackson. These places are in a perpetual state of decline, and nobody cares. The way forward is not in further endangering its citizens, but in allocating resources to the development of these low-income areas. Sure, the city of Jackson has attempted to help these communities, but the ban on open carry only concedes to undo the progress that has been made. This lack of protection, and blatant infringement of constitutional rights, only encourages more crime, and only time will tell the overall ramifications of this decision.