The Commercial Appeal
Change in gun law hits a nerve
Officials try to be ready for final outcome
Area law enforcement has been preparing to deal with a new law set to go into effect Monday that makes it legal for anyone over 18 to carry guns in public as long as they aren’t concealed, though court action late last week made it unclear what will happen with the controversial measure.
A judge late Friday issued an injunction blocking the law and will hear more arguments July 8.
But before the ruling, in readying for implementation of the law, local law enforcement officials had begun preparing and expressing their concerns.
“This law is one of those things that the Legislature turns out that inherently creates a lot of problems,” said Southaven police chief Tom Long, adding that it didn’t appear “a lot of thought went into it.”
“In a time when we should be doing other things and have our attention focused elsewhere, we will be responding to a lot of calls about people who are legally possess-
ing a weapon under the state law, but at the same time are scaring the public around them half to death,” Long said.
The legislation’s main sponsor, Republican Rep. Andy Gipson of Braxton, says the law simply restates the state constitution’s right to bear arms, but opponents said the law is dangerous.
Long said his officers have attended in-house classes about the new law for the past month.
Southaven officials plan to post signs Monday banning all weapons from city buildings including court, the library and city hall.
DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco said the county is also posting signs Monday to ban weapons from county buildings, including the courthouse, the county administration building and justice court.
“Everybody has a Second Amendment right, but this law is a concern because anyone can walk around with a gun on their side,” Rasco said.
Last week, a group of Democratic legislators requested that Gov. Phil Bryant reject the law, but Bryant refused their request. In May, he signed House Bill 2 into law. The law makes it legal for anyone over 18 to carry a knife, pistol or a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches as long as all or part of the weapon is visible. No state-issued permit is needed to carry a gun that’s not concealed.
DeSoto County Dist. Attorney John Champion said he held two seminars about the new law last week for law enforcement in DeSoto County and Batesville.
“Basically, I told them I could not answer their questions right now because I don’t know,” he said. “The way the law is written, it is only eight lines long, but it does not address whether or not you can take the weapons into public buildings. Private businesses have the right to keep people from bearing arms by posting a sign, but if they don’t post a notice then people can come into businesses armed.”
He added that the new law “is a balancing test of the right to bear arms and public safety. We are dealing with a lot of unknowns right now.”