Starting July 1 law-abiding Mississippians will be allowed to carry a firearm out in the open without a permit, which is something that’s causing some law enforcement officials to fret about how this new open carry law will impact their job.
Todd Kemp, the Clarke County Sheriff, told The Meridian Star that House Bill 2 was not really all that necessary considering the fact that open carry has been legal since the turn of the 20th Century.
“The legislators created this animal and now they don’t know what to do with it,” said Kemp. “The law has been on the books since 1890 but the people have pretty much ignored it for so many years. Now, the law has been out there in the news for a long time and I’m sure when July 1 rolls around we will see somebody walking around with a .45 strapped to their side.”
“This law creates some potential problems for us as law enforcement officers and I’d like to get the Attorney General’s office opinion on some of the things we might run into,” Kemp added.
To address the worries of various law enforcement personnel, the state Attorney General is holding a seminar on Wednesday, June 26, at Meridian Community College’s Webb Hall to educate police officers on how the law will impact their job. Of the main issues to be addressed is (a) how open carry/concealed carry is to be defined/redefined (b) places where open carry is prohibited: schools, community colleges and universities, private businesses and property (at owner’s discretion), courthouses (at Sheriff’s discretion) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, unless it’s hunting season and (c ) the conditions under which someone can be stopped for open carry.
To that last point, Ward Calhoun, the chief deputy of the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department, said that under House Bill 2 law enforcement cannot stop someone for simply carrying a firearm out in public.
“Basically, and I say that because I’m sure there will arise a specific situation in which this view will be challenged, an officer can’t stop you and question you just because he sees you wearing a gun,” Calhoun, who will be attending the session, told the Meridian Star. “He has to have probable cause to ask you questions and obtain other information.”
Calhoun added that while the law will take some getting used to the biggest concern is always with firearms safety and training. That is, ensuring gun owners exercise this right responsibly.
“One of our main concerns with a citizen carrying a firearm, no matter under which law it is, that they are trained not only in the operation and functions of the firearm but when that person can deploy that firearm,” Calhoun said. “This is a huge responsibility for someone and they had better be clear on these and many other aspects of carrying a firearm otherwise it could lead to much more serious matters.”
Likewise, Steven Jackson, the Chief of DeKalb Police Department, said that there will be a learning curve for everyone when it comes to open carry i.e., police, the law-abiding public and for judges who may eventually hear a case involving the law. However, in the long run, DeKalb does not think it will be a problem.
“There will always be that gun enthusiast who will want to flaunt their newly found freedom and that is fine as long as they do it in the right manner,” Jackson said. “But I don’t really foresee any long term problems.”
So, it appears that this change will take some getting used to. But, that’s to be expected. As for long term problems, and as DeKalb noted, it’s hard to imagine any cropping up. The law is not as confusing as some have made it out to be. It’s pretty straightforward. If one is not a criminal or someone who’s been adjudicated mentally defective and one is over the age of 21 (veterans 18 and over can qualify too), one can carry a firearm openly without a concealed carry permit.