Stokes wants to ban masks in city businesses; says doing so could reduce crime

Council looking at ways to help business owners prevent people from openly carrying guns on their properties.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 12:51 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A Jackson city councilman says he wants to ban people from wearing masks in stores, saying doing so could cut down on crime.

Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes plans to introduce an ordinance at the next council meeting to prohibit people, in most cases, from wearing face coverings into businesses in the city.

“You can’t wear it in a bank. They won’t let you come into a bank wearing that,” he said. “They won’t even let you wear a hat.”

He said the ordinance would include exceptions, such as allowing for face masks for health reasons.

Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes
Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes(WLBT)

On Tuesday, Stokes introduced a proposal that would have provided penalties for wearing masks or hoods while openly carrying firearms in the capital city.

However, Council President Aaron Banks pulled the item from the agenda, saying it would violate the terms of the city’s 2020 consent decree.

According to that decree, a federal lawsuit against the city would be dropped if leaders would agree to not adopt any rules directly or indirectly impacting the open carry of firearms.

The decree came in June of 2020, months after Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba signed an executive order temporarily prohibiting open carry, years after a state law allowing it went into effect.

“At the time, we separated ourselves from what the mayor did in order to protect the council from lawsuits,” Banks said. “If you remember, we had different elected officials from across the state, particularly across the House, that wanted to sue the city.”

The Mississippi Justice Institute did sue the mayor, arguing his order violated the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Mississippi Constitution, and Mississippi state statute, which eventually resulted in the decree.

“We cannot impose or put together an ordinance that goes against the Open Carry Law or state law,” he said.

Stokes told the council he was introducing the measure after a security guard at a Georgetown convenience store reached out to him.

“There was a young man walking around with an assault rifle and he would come in the store every day. And the security guard said, ‘You can’t bring this assault rifle in the store,’” said John Williams, who works for Stokes. “A week later, and he comes back with a mask on.”

Stokes told the council he drew up the initial ordinance after speaking with law enforcement. He believes the problem will only get worse as Halloween and the winter months approach.

“How many times are you going to be at the store buying gas, or children buying candy, and here somebody comes in the store with a massive gun?” he said. “You don’t know what’s on their mind. We’ve got to find a way to send a message.”

Stokes also said he was concerned about how Jackson could help business owners who post signs prohibiting guns.

Banks said the council would work with the city’s legal department to come up with a solution.

“I think that we have to be creative on this one and find a way to create an ordinance, or maybe a resolution, that gives us the ability to help these business owners prop up those laws to begin enforcing them on their property,” he said. “I commit to you that we will find a way to deal with that soon.”

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