By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
Recent weeks on my beat, particularly in Tishomingo County, have held some suspense-filled moments: voters making the county wet for beer, light wine and liquor and the election of a new mayor in Iuka.
The weeks ahead will present some interesting and challenging times as well.
One of the issues on my mind relates to the new July 1 Mississippi gun law. Mississippi enacted what people refer to as an “open carry” law for people age 18 and older with regard to handguns – and, really, any personal weapon – that takes effect July 1.
During a recent presentation to business representatives, Corinth Police Chief David Lancaster, Det. Capt. Ralph Dance, Deputy Chief Scotty Harville and Corinth training officer Capt. Chuck Hinds outlined some of the issues businesses need to be prepared to address when the law takes effect.
Dance noted that much of the chatter on the Corinth thread of the infamous gossip website Topix included comments from several posters that they can hardly wait until July 1 to strap on their holsters and carry their guns openly.
Lancaster, Dance and other law enforcement leaders and officers emphasize that they fully support Second Amendment rights and individuals’ right to carry weapons. However, in some instances there is conflict between state law and local ordinances.
In fact, police chiefs around the state still have many questions about what enforcement entails, and at the statewide police chiefs’ meeting this week a segment of the agenda will be dedicated to discussing the issue.
Even after the new law – Mississippi House Bill 2 – takes effect, any private business may prohibit weapons, and if bringing a weapon into the business is not allowed the business must make sure the public is made aware. A sign must be posted outside the business with the specific wording of the law, “carrying of a pistol or revolver is prohibited,” and the sign must be visible from a distance of not less than 10 feet.
With the posting, a person entering the business with a weapon is trespassing, and may be asked to leave. If the person refuses, the offense is a misdemeanor trespassing violation and a business representative must file a complaint with the police department.
Current laws requiring a person over age 21 who wants to carry a concealed weapon to have a permit – a concealed carry permit or an enhanced concealed carry permit – remain in effect.
While state Rep. Andy Gipson, who introduced the bill, said it only clarifies what has always been state law, the fact that it has raised so many more questions means nothing was really “clarified.”
I’m from a family with a father who hunted all my life and six brothers who served in the armed forces – three Army, one Navy, one Air Force and one Marine. Yet I never saw a firearm in our house growing up and have never seen a firearm in any of my brothers’ homes.
I also lived for many years in Washington, D.C., which has one of the strictest firearm ordinances in the nation.
My experience with firearms throughout my life is nil and I am happy to keep it that way, even though I always had people in my life who were familiar with and comfortable with weapons. Since returning to Mississippi, it still surprises me when I learn one of my friends owns a firearm and keeps it near.
For me, whatever alarm systems on my windows and doors and motion lights in the yard can’t accomplish, I don’t think I can accomplish with a handgun at my side.
LENA MITCHELL is the Daily Journal Corinth Bureau reporter and writes a Sunday column each month. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.