Police prepare for new gun law
by Rory Doyle
May 29, 2013 | 1794 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Confusion and concern linger after Gov. Phil Bryant approved of a new gun law related to concealed weapons.

The law is set to kick in on July 1.

Bryant signed the National Rifle Association-backed legislation in the March legislative session, and the bill has been drawing interest ever since.

Mississippi Rep. Andy Gipson (R), one of the authors of the legislation, recently released a statement to explain confusion over the bill's wordage.

"An existing code section, Miss. Code Section 97-37-1, does regulate the carrying of a weapon 'concealed' unless one has a concealed carry permit under Section 45-9-101," explained Gipson. "Before House Bill 2, Section 97-37-1 prohibited the carrying of deadly weapons 'concealed in whole or in part,' a phrase that caused much confusion.

"Most recently, in June 2012 the attorney general issued an opinion which in essence determined that because of this code section, it was a violation of the law even for concealed carry permit holders to carry a pistol or revolver in any way in which any portion of the weapon was not fully concealed. This defied logic and, in my view, violated our fundamental constitutional rights to keep and bear arms."

The bill says that Mississippi permit and licensing requirements don't apply to unconcealed weapons, which has led many to call the law an "open carry" proposal.

Therein lies some of the biggest controversy with the upcoming change — Gipson's bill gives any Mississippian 18 or older the permission to openly "holster carry."

"In my own view it will continue to be advisable to obtain a concealed carry permit, even though technically any law-abiding citizen over 18 years of age may 'holster carry' in the open if done in a non-threating and otherwise lawful manner," wrote Gipson.

Cleveland Police Chief Buster Bingham said law enforcement officials and citizens remain confused about exactly what will be considered legal once the law is enacted July1.

"House Bill 2 set out to redefine what a concealed weapon is," said Bingham. "If the law holds up, any person can carry a weapon on their belt as long as it's holstered. It doesn't need to be hidden or obscured. I think this will open up a can of worms."

Bingham, who said he is clearly in favor of the Second Amendment, is worried that people will think they have unlimited access throughout town while carrying a weapon because of the law.

"If House Bill 2 remains, I think there will be hundreds and hundreds of legal cases to come out of this," said Bingham.

Bingham said business owners should remain mindful that their business properties, while open to the public, are still private property — meaning it is legal to ban guns within the business or store.

"I want to remind store owners that businesses have the right to place signs advertising that weapons are not allowed in the store," he said. "I have no issues with the Second Amendment, but I don't see the need for people to go into restaurants or grocery stores with them.

"It's our job to protect the people of this city."

Bingham said he's also concerned for the safety of his officers, knowing that weapons often end up mixing with high-emotion situations and substance abuse scenarios.

"I just hope that no officer gets killed because of this open carry law," he said. "Personally, I think it should be repealed."

Bingham said his department would be participating in trainings related to the law and that the "Cleveland Police Department is going to be very proactive with this."

In other new state gun laws, House Bill 485, instituted in March, ensures that personal information regarding carry permit holders and applicants will remain both private and exempt from the Mississippi Public Records Act.

“As a matter of public safety, I remain opposed to releasing personal information on law-abiding gun owners,” said Bryant, after signing the bill.

“Sensitive gun owner information is entitled to privacy protections just like medical records, tax documents and personnel files.”

This information will only be released upon court order with proper jurisdiction for release.

Bryant's signature on HB 485 made Mississippi the 33rd state to provide these confidentiality stipulations for law-abiding gun owners.