As Americans in every major U.S. city take up arms to defend themselves against violent looters, one Florida mayor has effectively banned armed self-defense for anyone not already in possession of a firearm.
West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James declared a state of emergency on Monday prohibiting the sale of guns and ammunition, the “intentional display” of guns and ammunition, and the possession of firearms in public places.
“The public’s safety is my top priority, especially during this time of great unrest in cities nationwide,” James said in a statement.
The move comes even as residents face threats from rioters. On Sunday, shots were fired across the city as rioters damaged storefronts at the Palm Beach Outlets and threw rocks at police, according to local media. West Palm Beach Police had to block the entrance to the mall from Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and help employees safely leave the stores.
James’s move has been criticized by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which has promised to monitor the situation closely.
“These times of uncertainty and civil unrest are precisely when the Second Amendment is vitally needed most. This order prevents residents of West Palm Beach from exercising their constitutionally-protected rights at a time when law-abiding citizens need the means to defend themselves,” the NSSF said in a press release.
James cites Florida statute Section 870.044 as the authority for his ban. The statue gives the mayor the power to enact the following prohibitions, all of which James has included in his state of emergency:
- The sale of, or offer to sell, with or without consideration, any ammunition or gun or other firearm of any size or description.
- The intentional display, after the emergency is declared, by or in any store or shop of any ammunition or gun or other firearm of any size or description.
- The intentional possession in a public place of a firearm by any person, except a duly authorized law enforcement official or person in military service acting in the official performance of her or his duty.
It’s unclear whether “intentional display” includes holding a firearm outside a business for the purposes of defending it. As we reported yesterday, Americans across the country have used firearms as an effective deterrent against violence and looting.
The West Palm Beach city government responded to the accusation that James is violating Second Amendment rights. Calling such accusations “false” in a Rumor Patrol post, the city claims that the mayor is simply reciting the policies automatically imposed by state law during a state of emergency.
At least three other Florida cities — Riviera Beach, Lake Park, and Palm Beach Gardens – have issued similar state of emergency declarations. Rivera Beach’s includes a prohibition against firearm sales, but Palm Beach Garden’s does not.