New Mississippi law helps gun owners shoot down local bans

GUN RIGHTS: Under a law that went into effect on July 1, citizens have a legal venue to challenge gun bans in public buildings.

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

A new law in Mississippi is giving gun owners ammunition to fight gun bans in government buildings.

House Bill 314, which was passed in the 2014 legislative session and went into effect July 1, prevents counties and municipalities from passing more restrictive gun laws than those of the state.

Under a complaint process detailed in HB 314, a resident can file a complaint with state Attorney General Jim Hood to get a county or municipality to take down its signs banning guns in government buildings, or repeal the offending gun ban ordinance.

Certified firearms instructor and gun rights advocate Rick Ward said the new law was needed to bolster the state’s open-carry law, House Bill 2, which passed in 2013.

According to the Mississippi state constitution, Section 12, the Legislature has the power only to regulate or forbid the concealed carry of firearms. HB2 made it legal for gun owners to carry their weapons holstered without a permit, which is required for concealed carry in the state.

“When the law came out, they (the police chiefs) started raising Cain about it because they didn’t want everyone carrying guns,” Ward said. “At their convention that July, they passed out these (no firearms allowed) signs for businesses, and city and county governments followed suit.

“We had a law that prohibited the cities and counties from passing gun laws more restrictive than the state, but the citizens didn’t have any recourse to deal with it in case cities and counties broke the law.”

COMPLAINT PROCESS: People have the right to file complaints with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood over restrictive local gun laws.

Now they do, and the process is straightforward.

Once a complaint is filed, the attorney general’s office has 30 days to send an investigator to confirm the existence of the offending sign and ordinance. If the signs or ordinance are found in violation of HB314, the office will issue an order to have the signs removed or the ordinance repealed. The local government has 30 days to comply or the complainant has the right to file a lawsuit in circuit court. If the lawsuit is successful, the government officials who voted for the ban are personally liable for $1,000 apiece and the attorney fees for the complainant.

Ward said the reason for the law is simple: The signs or ordinances are a clear infringement on gun rights. While Ward supports open carry in government buildings, he does not support allowing guns into court rooms.

“If you’re going to the chancery clerk’s office to buy your car tag or look at some land deeds and there’s a (no weapons allowed) sign up, you’ve been adversely affected,” Ward said. “You’ve now got to not go at all or go back to your car and take a chance on your gun getting stolen out of your car. You’re also taking a chance going up to the building and not being able to defend yourself. So you’ve been adversely affected by that signage.”

Mississippi Carry, a grassroots gun rights organization in the state, has already filed complaints on 27 counties and municipalities.

Mississippi was ranked 18th for states with the most gun-friendly laws, according to firearms magazine Guns & Ammo. The magazine rated the states on their permit policies, restrictions (if any) on rifles and magazine size and castle doctrine laws.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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