Hood: Concealed guns OK on campus

HOOD

HOOD

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – People with an enhanced permit can carry a gun on a school campus, but not in the parts of the school that generally are not open to the public.

According to an opinion issued this week by the office of Attorney General Jim Hood, the school, for instance, could prevent an enhanced carry permit holder from taking a gun to a parent-teacher conference.

But the school “may not bar enhanced permit holders with concealed pistols and revolvers from entry into a school facility or school athletic event to which the general public is otherwise normally permitted.”

Official opinions of the attorney general do not carry the weight of law, but provide legal protection for public officials.

The attorney general issued the opinion in response to questions about the state’s gun laws to his office from Monroe County Superintendent of Education Scott Cantrell. Questions have arisen this year after the Legislature passed a bill affirming that people could carry a gun openly with no permit. A person still needs a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The state Department of Public Safety issues both concealed carry permits and enhanced concealed carry permits. To obtain an enhanced permit a person must attend a day-long seminar.

Hood’s opinion says a 2011 law gives enhanced carry permit holders authority to carry guns in places that people with the regular permit cannot.

In response to questions by Cantrell, the opinion goes on to say a local school board could ban employees with enhanced permits from carrying a weapon to school. Conversely, school district funds could be used to help an employee obtain an enhanced permit to provide additional security on campus.

The opinion reiterated a position the Attorney General’s office took in January 2012 stating “an enhanced license (holder) does not violate the concealed weapon statute… by carrying a firearm into a public school facility or non-firearm-related athletic event” at the collegiate or K-12 level.

But the opinion pointed out a flaw in the way the Legislature wrote the law, saying enhanced carry weapons can’t be banned at athletic events “not related to firearms” but can at events “related to firearms.”

The opinion said the language is among the many areas where there are complexities and contradictions in Mississippi gun laws.

Hood had said earlier that governmental entities could ban open carry weapons from certain buildings, such as courthouses, where emotional issues are considered and from school property. But enhanced carry holders would be exempt from at least some of those bans.

Hood said any private property owner could prevent a person from carrying a firearm on his or her property. He said the property owner could do so by posting a sign that could be seen from 10 feet away or simply by asking the gun-carrying person to leave.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com