West Palm Beach, Fla., became the first city in the nation to ban the sale or carrying of firearms in city limits in an emergency declaration intended to address violent clashes between police and demonstrators.
The city issued a curfew order on Sunday that included a ban on gun sales and gun carry. It extended the order for 72 hours on Monday. The ban on gun and ammo sales includes no exceptions and the ban on gun carry only provides exceptions for on-duty police and military personnel.
The emergency ban comes in the wake of heated political debates and legal showdowns about local and state orders that have shut down gun businesses due to concerns about the coronavirus. West Palm Beach's ban extends beyond those shutdowns to stop even those with gun-carry permits from being able to legally carry firearms for protection during the emergency.
An employee at Guns & Range Training Center in West Palm Beach confirmed the store is currently closed down due to the order but did not comment further. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry's trade group, said the order violates citizens' gun rights.
"This is unconscionable that the West Palm Beach mayor is denying the ability for law-abiding citizens of his city to exercise their Second Amendment rights during a time of unrest and widespread criminal activity," Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the group, told the Washington Free Beacon. "The Second Amendment was written exactly for these purposes, that citizens are afforded the ability to legally obtain arms and ammunition to defend themselves."
The West Palm Beach city government did not respond to a request for comment.
The city instituted the emergency order after protests over the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer spread across the country, including to West Palm Beach. West Palm Beach has witnessed violent clashes between police and demonstrators, as well as looting at local businesses that resulted in the arrest of at least five people. Three men have now been charged with "inciting a riot," according to the Palm Beach Post.
Mayor Keith James defended the emergency measures during a press conference on Monday.
"Some have described that decision as idiotic. However, I stand by that decision. I believe it was the best decision given the facts that were presented to me by my trusted chief of police," he said.
Oliva viewed the decision differently and said the mayor's ban on gun sales and carry is irresponsible and potentially dangerous.
"The mayor knows his police are stretched thin and these protests quickly turn violent," he said. "Instead of enabling Floridians in his city to defend themselves, he is denying their fundamental rights, leaving them defenseless."