The mayor of West Palm Beach, Fla., declared a state of emergency on May 31 that banned the sale of firearms and ammunition as well as the right of citizens to carry a firearm for personal protection in public unless they are members of law enforcement.
Mayor Keith James put the order into place after the city had seen protests and public demonstrations on Sunday, May 31, that were deemed as “civil unrest” when confrontations with law enforcement developed in the evening. Several fires were reported, as well as damage to stores.
Obvious questions arise from the order. First, how is any of this constitutional? And what good is the Second Amendment – which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled is grounded in the concept of self-defense – if it can be infringed specifically when the need for defensive action may be especially acute?
For comparison, imagine if this mayor also told people they couldn’t use their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly, and banned public demonstrations for the duration of his order. Clearly, this mayor is treating the Second Amendment—the right used for self-defense, especially in difficult times—as a second-class right.
“The public’s safety is my top priority, especially during this time of great unrest in cities nationwide,” said James in a statement. He didn’t explain how disarming law-abiding citizens makes them safer, because it clearly doesn’t.
In his declaration, the mayor cited a statute that purports to provide e legal authority to strip law-abiding citizens of their Second Amendment rights during a state of emergency. The order is set to expire June 3, at 9 p.m., but may be extended by another three days if the city council votes to extend the order. Though its duration, in this instance, is short, this mayor still took away a right that’s specifically protected in the U.S. Constitution right when it was most needed.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order in April that exempted firearms and ammunitions manufacturers from the state’s restrictions during the COVID-19 crisis. The Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security also issued official guidelines in March that included firearms stores, manufacturers, retailers and more as essential.
All of this comes as Americans are making the rational decision to arm and defend themselves at a record-setting pace. May was the third straight month to set a record number of firearm sales. Many of those buying firearms are, in fact, first-time buyers who have made the prudent decision to take proactive steps to protect their rights and their safety .