Legislators: MDPS chooses 'not to follow the law' on firearms

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

Authors of an amendment expanding the right to carry a concealed firearm say the Mississippi Department of Public Safety is still intentionally ignoring the law’s intent.
In an interview week on Supertalk Mississippi Radio, Reps. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, and Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, stepped up claims first publicly made in interviews last week with the Daily Journal.
Under House Bill 506, which became effective July 1, MDPS is required to provide an enhanced endorsement for any permit holder who has taken training from instructors certified by the National Rifle Association or other recognized firearms safety organizations. The endorsement would enable such a citizen legally to carry a concealed firearm in courthouses, city halls and churches, which are now off limits.
MDPS officials said last week the department will recognize only a 16-hour course of its own delivered after July 1 by instructors certified by MDPS – which there were none as of Thursday.
“What they’re requiring is not bad,” said Oxford attorney Reed Martz. “They’re just not allowed to hold your endorsement hostage over it.”
Snowden told Supertalk’s Paul Gallo on Wednesday that agency officials are “dragging their feet.”
Gunn said MDPS had from mid-March to July 1 to get its process in place for the enhanced endorsement.
“I should be able to take my paperwork down to the Department of Public Safety and say, ‘Look, in March I took a course training me to carry this gun. Give me a sticker for this card,'” he said.
Snowden said Friday that a letter he, Gunn and co-author Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, wrote MDPS Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz last week has gone unanswered. Master Sgt. Eugene Williams of MDPS said Thursday that the department has no plans to change its previously announced requirements. He said the law leaves no room for MDPS to impose such stringent requirements.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of interpretation,” he told Gallo. “I think they’ve chosen not to follow the law.”
Two other apparent irregularities in HB 506’s implementation have also surfaced. MDPS has not published its proposed rules with the Secretary of State’s Office as required by administrative procedures law, and while MDPS officials said out-of-state instructors would be eligible for certification, potential instructors are required to list their Mississippi county of residence on the application.
Snowden told the Daily Journal on Friday that a lawsuit brought by a firearms permit holder may be the only way to force MDPS to meet the requirements of the law.
errol.castens@journalinc.com