Illinois city clarifies it hasn't banned firearm sales amid coronavirus emergency declaration

An Illinois city is telling residents that it isn't banning firearm sales or planning to seize property amid an uproar over an emergency declaration highlighting the mayor's purported power to do so during the coronavirus outbreak.

"This statement is in response to several false claims circulating online," a city press release read on Friday. "To be clear, there is currently no firearm ban and no intent to seize property or close businesses. Additionally, there are no restrictions on the sale of alcohol or gas or the ability to enter or leave Champaign."

The city council passed an ordinance that, according to the city, reiterated emergency powers that were already granted in its code.

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Those powers included banning firearms and ammunition sales, and closing all liquor stores, as well as ending the sale and distribution of gasoline. According to the ordinance, Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen also has the power to seize personal property.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) posted a "national alert" on Friday, condemning the city council's decision to pass the ordinance.

"The ordinance in Champaign serves as a warning bell to law-abiding gun owners nationwide.  We must be on high alert for any attempts to destroy the Second Amendment in jurisdictions throughout the country," the alert read.

The city said in its press release that municipal code has authorized a variety of powers since 2006.

"The Mayor has the authority to exercise other emergency powers under the Champaign Municipal Code Section 12-39, which have been in existence since 2006; however, and under the known circumstances, no further measures are anticipated," the city said.

According to The News-Gazette, Champaign city attorney Fred Stavins similarly said the ordinance granted authority that had been on the books since 2006.

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“Again, there’s nothing that compels the exercise of any of these powers, and they’re extensive, there’s no doubt about it -- you look at these and you say, ‘Holy cow! The mayor can confiscate property!' Hopefully, that’s never going to be required,” Stavins said.

Feinen also said she hoped not to reach that point.

“Making 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,” she said, according to WCIA.