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In the Illinois city of Champaign, home to the University of Illinois, an executive order gives the mayor an unprecedented level of power that would allow for, among other things, the suspension of the sales of ammunition and firearms.
According to WAND-TV, Champaign Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen announced the executive order because of the novel coronavirus.
In addition to allowing the mayor to ban the sales of guns and ammunition, the executive order lets her restrict the sale and distribution of food and water as well as take the title to private property.
The executive order also lets her ban the sale of liquor and would allow the mayor to shut down liquor stores and bars. WAND reported that the Champaign Municipal Code permits the mayor to suspend certain liberties for a limited period in times of emergency.
These are, of course, potential remedies the town might take. As of yet, none of the powers that have been given to the mayor have been used.
However, the list of powers that the mayor know has — decided on in a Friday meeting — is an unnerving look at what could be coming to your community.
This is the full meeting, for those of you interested in how our freedoms die:
By the way, as Katie Pavlich pointed out over at Townhall.com, there isn’t a single confirmed case of coronavirus in the area at present.
The executive order allows the mayor to suspend parts of the state’s Open Meetings Act. It also bans the sale of gas “or other liquid flammable or combustible products” unless it goes directly into your vehicle’s gas tank.
Other provisions are more sinister. For instance, the mayor’s office can shut off water, power, gas and other utilities. It can also close bars and taverns, as well as liquor stores.
The two most dire provisions, however, would allow the mayor to declare a ban on the sale of firearms and ammunition, as well as obtain the title to private property “as may be necessary to deal with a disaster or emergency.”
“The executive order allows the city to be flexible to properly respond to the emergency needs of our community,” Champaign communications manager Jeff Hamilton told WAND.
“None of the options will necessarily will be implemented but are available in order to protect the welfare and safety of our community if needed.”
Feinen insisted she’s had many of these powers all along. “So many of those powers, I have had from the beginning,” she told WAND.
“All we have done is enumerate them and now the public is aware of them. So, I am the liquor commissioner. I can shut down bars yesterday, I could have shut them down two years ago. Nothing has changed with respect to that, it is just that we have laid it out, so people are aware of that. In respect to the other items that are listed in the attachment, they have been listed in the city code for 15 years.”
Let me reiterate that none of these things are going into effect in the immediate future.
However, the fact that they needed to be outlined by the Champaign City Council doesn’t bode well for the future.
It’s become clear that increasing government intervention is necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The success of that intervention, however, is based on trust. When you tell me I can’t exercise my constitutional rights and that you can take my property because of a disease, I don’t trust you.
There’s no real reason to believe that these powers will stop COVID-19 — especially the part about the mayor being allowed to suspend gun sales.
The reason for this is what — to prevent widespread societal breakdown? The idea that stopping people from defending themselves has anything to do with coronavirus is, quite frankly, the height of insanity.
Furthermore, the reasoning behind it isn’t quite made clear.
At least the executive order makes it clear why they might want your property; the executive order allows the mayor to order “city employees or agents, on behalf of the City, to take possession of any real or personal property of any person, or to acquire full title or such lesser interest as may be necessary to deal with a disaster or emergency, and to take possession of and for a limited time, occupy and use any real estate to accomplish alleviation of the disaster, or the effects thereof.”
The part about restricting gun sales? Not so much.
Instead, executive order merely says that the city may “[o]rder the discontinuance of selling, distributing, dispensing or giving away of explosives or explosive agents, firearms or ammunition of any character whatsoever.”
Now, the City of Champaign’s official Twitter account put out a statement on its Twitter account pushing back against what it called “false claims circulating online.”
Special Statement Clarifying City Code Provisions approved 3/13/20 pic.twitter.com/yuzYlDjikX
— City of Champaign (@champaigncity) March 13, 2020
There is currently no firearm ban in the city and no immediate intent to close businesses, seize property or restrict alcohol sales, the statement said.
But the statement conveniently forgot to address the problem, which is that the mayor can decide to do some of these things if she wants.
And there are other problematic parts of the executive order, too.
One can understand why a community might want to “[c]ontrol, restrict, allocate, or regulate the use, sale, production, or distribution of food, water, fuel, clothing, and/or other commodities, materials, goods, services and resources.”
What, then, to make of a provision which would “[r]equire the continuation, termination, disconnection, or suspension of natural gas, electrical power, water, sewer, communication or other public utilities or infrastructure?” That one might have required some explication.
Feinen told WCIA this is about “[m]aking sure that we are prepared and ready for any eventuality. I hope all of this is for naught and that none of the emergency measures we’ve put into place are necessary.”
One hopes so, but it still doesn’t explain why we’re setting up the constitutional rights of citizens in that corner of America to be abrogated — and, more worrisome, why this isn’t coming to a town near you sometime soon.