Bill could allow concealed carry in additional public places

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 15, 2018

A new bill recently passed by the Mississippi House of Representatives, could allow individuals who hold enhanced firearm carry licenses additional privileges in public places, if the governor signs it into law.

House Bill 1083 expands the list of locations in which license holders are able to legally carry firearms. The amended list includes any “public property, or portion of public property, except any place of nuisance… any patrol station or any detention facility, prison or jail” the bill states.

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In addition, amendments to the bill would allow individuals to sue public institutions that attempt to limit or regulate the possession of concealed weapons. If it is found that an institution has gone against regulations, a notice can be sent to the state’s Attorney General for review. If it is found that the institution is in fact in violation of this rule, they will be given 30 days to correct the violation, the bill states.

The proposed change has raised concerns by many institutions that security will be harder to maintain. Dr. Rodney D. Bennett, President of the University of Southern Mississippi recently traveled to Jackson to speak with the Mississippi State Legislature to voice his concerns regarding amendments to the bill.

These amendments “would result in a policy change, which would disallow public agencies from maintaining any policies that designate spaces where firearms are prohibited” Bennett said in a public statement.

Picayune School District Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said that currently no individual, outside of law enforcement, is allowed to carry weapons onto the property of any schools inside the Picayune School District. While metal detectors are not in use at the schools, signs are posted outside each campus alerting the public that firearms are not allowed. If the bill is passed, those signs would no longer be legal.

“Any rule, regulation or other policy that has the effect of limiting the locations on public property, or a portion of public property, where a person may carry a concealed pistol pursuant to the Mississippi enhanced carry law beyond the locations described in this subsection shall have no force or effect” the amendment reads.

If such a bill is passed, “it would be very concerning for the entire school district” Harrell said.

In order to procure a concealed carry permit, a Mississippi resident must undergo  a long and arduous process. According to Mississippi Code 97-37-7, an application must be submitted to the state with any included fees. Since no person with previous felony charges may obtain such a license, fingerprints must be taken and used in the process of a background check on a state and federal level. If the applicant is free of any prior convictions, they must then pass a weapons training course held by a certified instructor. If the individual passes both the background check and training course, they will be either approved or denied within 45 days, according to the bill.

Pearl River County Sheriff Department Chief Deputy Shane Tucker said a certain level of maturity is required for someone to obtain an enhanced carry license. While he said that he can understand that arguments can be made for both sides of the debate, typically those with enhanced carry licenses are not the ones who would commit a gun-related crime.

According to a study on the relationship between gun theft and violent crimes done by the University of Pittsburgh, individuals who are not legally authorized to carry firearms commit the majority of gun-related crimes.

“79 percent of perpetrators are connected to firearms for which they are not the legal owner” the study states.