Starting Monday, state law will allow firearms to be openly carried without a permit.
House Bill 2, passed during the last session, was celebrated by supporters as an important step to protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
It essentially permits those who are not convicted felons to have on their person firearms that are visible. Concealed weapons still require a state-issued permit.
In an opinion issued June 13, Attorney General Jim Hood clarified some of the law’s details, in response to concerns from law enforcement about open carry being allowed in jails and courthouses. Hood said in his opinion that would be left up to individual county sheriffs, most of whom have already said they will not allow firearms unless they’re carried by law enforcement.
Hood’s opinion also carried ramifications for the state’s business community. One of the questions Hood addressed was whether the new open carry law altered the rights of private property and business owners to prohibit conduct that isn’t criminal, but may butt against policy. Hood said it did not.
“A private property owner or manager of a retail store, grocery store or restaurant may exercise his property rights and deny entry to persons carrying weapons on his property (verbally, by posting a sign or other means.)” Hood’s opinion says. “A private property owner may even prohibit enhanced concealed permit holders from their property.
“It is a basic tenet of property law that a landowner or tenant may use the premises they control in whatever fashion they desire, so long as the law is obeyed,” the opinion continues. “This leads to the logical conclusion that a landowner or valid tenant may forbid any other persons from using their property. This ideal is protected in our law to the point that there are both civil and criminal prohibitions against trespassing.”
Allowing businesses to decide whether their customers could openly carry firearms is one tenet Mississippi’s business community wanted the new law to protect, said Ron Aldridge, director of the Mississippi chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The NFIB is a small business advocacy organization. Aldridge said his group did not actively engage the bill during the legislative process, after it was given assurances that business owners could control the influx of firearms on their property.
“That was our main interest, was the self-protection . We immediately put out a copy of the AG’s opinion just so they would have something as a legal foundation so they could go ahead and begin to think about what their policy could be on that,” Aldridge said. “Whether they wanted to put a sign in front of their business, or whatever the policy is, will be completely up to them.”
Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, chairs the Judiciary B Committee and introduced House Bill 2. He said during a forum shortly after the legislative session ended in April that the bill was in response to a prior attorney general’s opinion that left muddled whether citizens could carry a firearm that was not concealed.
The new law is designed to “clear up” any confusion that opinion created, Gipson said.
Legislation similar in nature died during the 2010 legislative session. That bill specified that restaurants that serve alcohol could not prohibit customers with a concealed carry permit from possessing firearms inside their establishments. In 2011, Mississippi law was amended to allow those with an enhanced concealed carry permit – which requires an eight-hour training course to go with the regular background check – to possess firearms in previously prohibited places.