A plan designed to regulate guns in the city of Jackson moved a little closer to fruition this morning.
Since late last year, Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps, who also presides over the city council, has been tossing the idea around of requiring gun-owners to report their firearms stolen within 48 hours of the discovery of the theft. This morning, the full council adopted the ordinance, clearing the way for the measure to be voted upon.
Stamps said the requirement is aimed at curbing such practices as shooting into the air during New Year's Eve and Independence Day celebrations. Information on injuries and fatalities from stray bullets alone is hard to come by. However, response to yearly incidents of people being killed or hurt by falling bullets has prompted several police agencies around the nation to initiate public-awareness campaigns asking people to refrain from shooting into the air.
Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell, who recently announced that he would step down from his post in October, questioned how the proposed ordinance would work in concert with the Mississippi Castle Doctrine, which justifies homicide in certain instances, such as self-defense.
"I want to make sure if someone comes to my house, and I have to discharge my weapon to protect my person that I won't be charged with a misdemeanor," Whitwell said at the meeting.
Stamps, a marine, says the proposal deals only with the reporting requirement, which promotes responsible gun ownership.
"People don't do things with legal guns, they do things with guns they've stolen," Stamps told the JFP.
Monica Joiner, the city's attorney, told Whitwell that the language of the ordinance would cover individuals who discharge weapons for reasons that are "substantiated."
In other city council actions, the lowest-paid City of Jackson employees moved closer to seeing a pay raise after the Jackson City Council moved along a measure that has near-unanimous support.
With Whitwell as the lone objector, the council agreed to put a minimum-wage pay increase up to a full vote. Currently, the minimum wage for city employees mirrors the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Under Hendrix's proposal, the wage would rise to $8.75 per hour within a year. The next year, it would go up to $9.70 and $10.65 after three years.
"What we pay our workers simply is not right," said Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr.. "We've got some real imbalances, and I wish we had some money for cost-of-living increases for everyone."
Minimum-wage earners, Priester pointed out, can least afford to absorb inflation. When the cost of living increases, people who make minimum wage essentially are taking a pay cut, he added.
Raising the minimum wage for city employees could be a boon to the local economy despite common myths that increasing the wage would cost jobs. Information from the U.S. Department of Labor shows no discernible effect on employment, and nearly 600 economists have voiced support of raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per year by 2016.
Additionally, the federal minimum wage has been increased 22 times since 1938 and, in the meantime, real gross-domestic product per capita has steadily increased for 75 years, even when the minimum wage has been raised.
And a raise in minimum wage isn't only good for teenagers earning pocket money. The typical minimum-wage worker isn't in high school—studies show 88 percent of people who would benefit from a federal minimum wage increase are age 20 or older.
The council also approved entering into an agreement with Citizen Observer, based in St. Paul, Minn., to permit Jackson police to receive and respond to anonymous text messages, pictures and web tips, as well as expand awareness to the public via crime and emergency notifications. The system also has features that include automatic publishing to social networking and websites as well as integrated crime mapping and web tips, which allow citizens to view crime data.
Long on the wish list for Mayor Tony Yarber, the purchase of the tip system stalled as council members worked out privacy concerns and questions. Chief Lee Vance helped convince the members who were on the fence.
"We believe this software is going to be beneficial to us in catching criminals," Vance said this morning, before the item passed unanimously.
The system will take between one to two months to get up and running, said Justin Bruce, who works on Yarber's staff.
Several mayoral appointments that were on the agenda today were held so that confirmation hearings could take place next week, Sept. 17 and Sept. 18, at 2 p.m. each day. The administration's proposal to hire two lobbying firms went to the legislative committee. One, Hayes Dent Public Strategies, would represent the city in the state Legislature. The other, Cornerstone Government Affairs, would represent the city in Washington, D.C.
This story has been edited to reflect an update a clarification. Councilman Stamps' proposed amendment deals only with requiring people to report stolen weapons within 48 hours. The proposal does not deal with discharging firearms in the city.