ABERDEEN – Mayor Maurice Howard has his sights set on a potential lawsuit against the current and previous boards of aldermen if city leaders don’t overturn action forbidding firearms from City Hall.

Following Howard bringing a gun in a holster to Sept. 3’s public hearing regarding the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, Ward 2 Alderman Doug Stone motioned Tuesday to adopt a resolution forbidding firearms and posting signage from City Hall, which passed with no opposition.

Ward 3 Alderman David Ewing was not present at the meeting.

On June 18, 2013, the previous board of aldermen approved a resolution to adopt a city policy stating there will be no firearms on city property due to the state’s open carry law.

As far as Tuesday’s action, no signs forbidding firearms have been posted, and no ordinance has been adopted. The minutes from Tuesday’s meeting will be presented for approval at the board’s next regularly called meeting Oct. 1.

Howard said if the city does not reverse the decisions, he plans to pursue legal action against everyone who voted in favor of the policies.

“If they don’t resolve it, each board member will be sued individually and fined $1,000. They won’t be able to use legal counsel from the city attorney. They’ll have to get their own legal counsel and face potential litigation,” Howard said.

Howard hand delivered a five-and-a-half-page letter to city clerk Jackie Benson regarding objections he had in the matters, and the city attorney and members of the board of aldermen were emailed copies.  

The city had no comment on the matter. 

According to Mississippi Code 45-9-51, “no county or municipality may adopt any ordinance that restricts the possession, carrying, transportation, sale, transfer or ownership of firearms or ammunition or their components.”

Mississippi Code 45-9-51(1)(f)(i) allows a county or municipality, if they have authority under other law, such as “Home Rule,” to regulate the carrying of a firearm at a public park or at a public meeting of a county, municipality or other governmental body.

Howard said gun attorneys and advocates and Civil Rights attorneys contacted him following a Sept. 11 Monroe Journal article about him bringing the gun to the public hearing.

As of Friday morning, Howard said he had meetings planned for next week with five attorneys, and three are willing to work his case pro bono.

He said even if the board members vote to change decisions regarding prohibiting firearms, he plans to pursue litigation regarding his salary being cut twice last summer.

“Mayor Howard apparently has issues with his board retaliating against him for various reasons. Those are separate from mine and my partner’s concerns regarding his gun rights. That is because his gun rights are all our gun rights. I have been a crusader for gun rights whenever anybody’s rights are violated by local officials,” said Mississippi gun advocate Rick Ward in a statement.

He continued to state he has had success in the 27 complaints he filed with the Attorney General’s office in five years, including ones against the Lowndes County Chancery Court judges and the 14th Chancery District.

“As I told the board of supervisors in Lowndes County, though it fell on deaf ears, a few years ago we will take whatever action necessary to prevail, including going to the Supreme Court in Mayor Howard’s defense, and it won’t cost him a dime,” Ward said in the statement, adding gun rights enthusiasts’ donations pay for legal fees.

For more information, check out the Sept. 18 edition of the Monroe Journal.

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