House Bill 2, approved by Gov. Phil Bryant in March, is being referred to as the open carry law because gun owners will now have fewer concealment regulations.
"HB 2 set out to redefine what a concealed weapon is," said Cleveland Police Chief Buster 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.”
Also written in the bill’s language is that citizens may carry with or without concealed carry permits — 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.
Local law enforcement officials, including Bingham and Bolivar County Sheriff Kelvin Williams, think this could open up a can of worms.
“While I’m sure there are other people happy about the law, from a sheriff’s perspective — and from other sheriffs I’ve talked with across the state — most feel this could be a problem for law enforcement,” said Williams in a previous Bolivar Commercial story.
Williams said he and the county board of supervisors will soon establish policies to ban weapons in county courthouses and offices, something he said is of utmost significance.
Sunflower County agreed to a similar policy this week.
“We’ll definitely draw up the ban for courthouses,” said Williams. “It’s just a matter of writing the policy down and getting the signatures.”
The sheriff added that businesses have the right to post signs banning guns in their stores.
“It’s in their rights to post signs, but they must ask someone with a weapon to leave if they still enter,” said Williams. “If that person doesn’t leave, then they can be arrested and charged with trespassing.”
Danny Abraham, owner of Abraham’s clothing store in Cleveland, said he’s still on the fence about posting signage at his shop.
“The jury is still out — I haven’t decided yet,” said Abraham. “Eventually I’ll have to take a position one way or another and make a final decision.
“I need to get a feel for it once July 1 gets here and decide — no guns means no guns.”
Steve Clark, owner of Clark Jewelry downtown, said he would also wait to see how citizens react to the new law.
“It may not end up being a big deal, but I don’t think people should be bringing firearms into stores,” said Clark. “If people bring guns in here I wouldn’t be able to know a robber from a customer.”
Clark said if it becomes a problem he would post signs at his storefront.
Heidi’s owner Heather Robinson said she’s hopeful the law won’t impact her environment a great deal.
“I wouldn’t have an issue posting a sign about no guns, but I don’t think it will be a big issue for our customers,” said Robinson. “Our clientele is mostly mothers and children.”
For the meantime, it remains to be seen how the state reacts to new carrying rights.
“It really hasn’t been a big issue yet and we haven’t had any businesses contact us about the issue,” said Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Judson Thigpen. “If we have enough concerned business owners, than we might have to meet and see what’s needed.”