DPS revises firearms rules

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Mississippi Department of Public Safety officials have revised the regulations they first proposed for firearms permit holders who want to be legally armed in several previously banned places.
House Bill 506 provides an endorsement for permit holders who have completed a firearms safety class “by an instructor certified by a nationally recognized organization that customarily offers firearms training” to carry in churches and courthouses (but not active courtrooms), among other places. Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Klingfuss has said it also applies to colleges – a provision he and many campus police have criticized.
When DPS officials announced last month they would require a two-day course of their own design, permit holders and the bill’s authors protested that the requirements overstepped the legislation’s intent.
“Highway Patrol Director Colonel (Donnell) Berry and people from the governor’s office met, and they decided to make an amendment to the requirement for the enhanced firearms permit back from a 16-hour course to an eight-hour course,” DPS spokesman Jon Kalahar said. In addition to safety rules and handgun skills, each course must include an overview of laws regarding concealed carry and justifiable homicide, he said.
Any eight-hour or longer National Rifle Association safe gun-handling course meeting those standards and taught after July 1 by instructors listed on the DPS website will be accepted. (Newly certified trainers are added weekly.)
Madison attorney Stephen Stamboulieh, who attended Monday’s meeting, said current active-duty military pistol training will also be accepted.
DPS will forward its proposed rules to the Secretary of State next week for website posting. The rules may be revised in response to suggestions received during a 30-day public comment period after the posting.
Meanwhile, endorsement stickers are available under the rules as now proposed. Oxford attorney Reed Martz received the first endorsement Wednesday at Mississippi Highway Patrol offices in New Albany.
“The department got off to a rocky start, but we’re very pleased to see they’ve listened to the criticism and are headed in the right direction,” Martz said. “We want to commend them for that response.”
Stamboulieh said, “I think these are good concessions from DPS, and I am satisfied in general that they are where the law requires them to be.”
Tom Givens of Memphis-based Rangemaster is the only DPS-approved trainer north of Jackson so far. He welcomed the new training incentive for Mississippi firearms owners.
“From a constitutionalist’s point of view, you have a right to carry a gun, period,” he said. “But it’s foolish to carry without training. It’s like driving a car without training.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com