State and Local Legal Blog

Packing Heat Continued — thoughts on HB 2 | August 12, 2013

When visiting the basic statutes on weapons — carrying them concealed or otherwise — the question is:  What does the clear language of these statutes tell us?

Suffice to say that we can with certainty glean the following:

1.    Any person who carries any bowie knife, dirk knife, butcher knife, switchblade knife, metallic knuckles, blackjack, slingshot, pistol, revolver, or any rifle with a barrel of less than sixteen (16) inches in length, or any shotgun with a barrel of less than eighteen (18) inches in length, machine gun or any fully automatic firearm or deadly weapon, or any muffler or silencer for any firearm, whether or not it is accompanied by a firearm, and carries it concealed (under the new definition) is committing a crime, specifically a misdemeanor for a first or second offense, and a felony for third and subsequent defenses.

2.    A person can carry these weapons concealed without being charged with a crime if he obtains a license, most often referred to as a “carry permit”.

3.    The Mississippi Department of Public Safety is responsible for issuing the license, assuming statutory requirements are met by the applicant.

4.    Local legislation cannot “preempt” these laws by restricting the possession, transportation, sale, transfer or ownership of firearms or ammunition or their components in its jurisdiction, except by statutory exception.

5.    Statutory exceptions allow limited local legislation, chiefly:

a.     To require citizens or public employees to be armed for personal or national defense, law enforcement, or another lawful purpose;

b.    To regulate the discharge of firearms within the limits of the county or municipality;

c.    To regulate the use of firearms in cases of insurrection, riots and natural disasters when necessary to protect the health and safety of the public; or

d.    To regulate the carrying of firearms at a public park, a public meeting of a county, municipal or other government body, at a   political rally, parade or official political meeting, and at a non-firearm-related school, college or professional athletic event.

What questions remain?

Perhaps a few.  For example, if an instrument is not defined by or listed in Miss. Code Ann. §97-37-1, but it is carried by someone who has a license to carry, duly issued by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, is that individual guilty of violating §97-37-1? And to what end is the language of §45-9-101 (18) which states:  “…nothing in this section shall be construed to allow the open and unconcealed carrying of any deadly weapon as described in §97-37-1”?

Assuming that Mississippi is an “open carry” state, meaning that Mississippi citizens can carry unconcealed weapons of any sort without violating any law, does this right apply to all  Mississippi citizens, or only those who might qualify to obtain a carry permit?  In other words, can Mississippi citizens who suffer from a physical infirmity which prevents the safe handling of these designated weapons still carry them unconcealed upon their person?  What about those who chronically or habitually abuse controlled substances to the extent that they are impaired?  Or our citizens who chronically and habitually use alcoholic beverages to the extent that they are impaired?  And what of our mentally impaired or incompetent citizens?

And how about those places that, even with a carry permit, an individual cannot carry a concealed weapon?  Places like police stations, sheriff’s departments, highway patrol stations, courthouses, places that governmental bodies meet, schools, bars, places of worship and all those other regulated areas?  Under the open carry concept, can citizens carry unconcealed weapons there?

There remain many confusing area to be sorted out in HB 2.  Perhaps a revision in the 2014 session will be forthcoming.

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