In one month a law will take effect in Mississippi that has many law enforcement officers, business owners and regular people confused.
House Bill 2, a bill meant to clarify Mississippi’s concealed carry gun laws, defines the word concealed and in doing so says it shall not include weapons being carried upon a person in a sheath, belt holster or shoulder holster that is wholly or partially visible.
Gun rights advocates have taken to campaigning for and embracing a new open carry movement. One group in Corinth is hosting an open carry, empty chamber day at Corinth City Park on July 6 once the law goes into affect.
Many law enforcement officials have expressed concern that this will bring more weapons into play in their everyday duties, increasing their call volume and confusion at crime scenes.
House Bill 2 author, Rep. Andy Gipson, R- Braxton, said Mississippi has always been an open carry state and the campaigning and worry is much to do about nothing.
“Nothing the Legislature did or could do changed Article 3, Section 12 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1980,” Gipson said.
The article says that the state can regulate or forbid the carrying of concealed weapons but no law can call into question the right of every citizen to, “keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person or property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned…”
One thing law enforcement officials are working to make clear to business owners is that this law doesn’t change private property laws. In the case of the Corinth City Park gun rally, Corinth has a city ordinance that does not allow having a gun in many public places, including the city park.
Police Chief David Lancaster said the Corinth Police Department is still awaiting an opinion from the attorney general as to which law takes priority.
He held an informational session for business owners in Corinth to let them know about the upcoming law as well as let them know what their rights as business owners are.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said people need to know they still have property rights.
“I can’t tell you that you can’t carry a gun into a restaurant, but I can tell the people that own the restaurant they have the right to refuse service to anyone,” he said. “You can post a sign that says guns aren’t allowed at a private business and then they are trespassing if they come in. If they have the enhanced concealed carry permit they can carry anywhere, even that restaurant, except for certain government buildings.”
To do this, a sign banning guns in a business must be visible from not less than 10 feet of a businesses entrance.
Jeff Snyder, general manager of The Mall at Barnes Crossing, said they have prohibited weapons and firearms at the mall since it opened. They have signs posted outside each mall entrance.
John Oxford, Renasant Bank’s vice president of external affairs, said the Mississippi Bankers Association is having a conference about the new law where they will look at adopting a uniform policy for banks in Mississippi.
Johnson said now the question is, “Who will walk up to someone with a gun and tell them to leave?”
Verona Police Chief Anthony Anderson said he is anticipating much discussion on how to enforce this law at the upcoming Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police Conference on June 16.
He said he is a supporter of Second Amendment rights but doesn’t look forward to walking into a gas station where four people have guns on their hips and trying to figure out who is trained to use the firearm and what their intentions are.
Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton said he and his officers are going through a week of training before the new law takes effect to make sure everyone is clear and it is properly enforced.
Prentiss County Sheriff Randy Tolar said his staff will also undergo specific training for enforcement of the new law. He said as long as a person isn’t a convicted felon and isn’t concealing their firearm, they can have it in public.
Johnson said he expects to see a large increase in harassment and intimidation calls following the law.
Johnson, Anderson and Gipson all made sure to point out that a person carrying a gun openly in public is still prohibited from showing or using that weapon in a threatening manner.
“It doesn’t matter what you think about the way you’re carrying your gun if someone else feels threatened or intimidated,” Johnson said.
When the new law goes into effect, convicted felons will still be prohibited from carrying a firearm, people will still be prohibited from carrying a firearm into an area with posted signs banning firearms unless they have a state-issued enhanced conceal carry permit and anyone using a firearm in the commission of a crime or for intimidation can be held legally responsible.
To carry a firearm in public in Mississippi, a person must be at least 18 years of age.
CURRENT GUN CARRY STATUTES
• THE MISSISSIPPI CONCEALED CARRY PERMIT – also known as a firearms permit, specifies a stun gun, concealed pistol or revolver – does not require any special training and limits places where a permit-holder can carry a firearm. The extensive list is available at the Mississippi Department of Public Safety website, but includes among others police departments, sheriff’s offices, courthouses, jails, bars and schools. Must
be at least 21 to have permit.
• THE MISSISSIPPI ENHANCED CONCEALED CARRY PERMIT requires the individual be trained by an instructor certified by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. It gives greater latitude to the number of places where permit-holders may take their weapons, but also excludes federal buildings, courtrooms during proceedings,
police departments, sheriff’s offices, highway patrol stations, prisons, jails and places of nuisance, also described on the Mississippi DPS website.
Must be at least 21 to have permit.
JB Clark and Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal