Mississippi Gun Laws Clarified

As Americans, our Second Amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. States have the authority to regulate how, and where, via state-issued permit, those arms are carried.  There are over forty states in the United States that allow some form of “open carry” for firearms.      

Mississippi is one of 11 states that allows “constitutional carry,” or both “openly and/or concealed”carry, without the requirement of a permit to those that are legally eligible to  possess a firearm under House Bill 786 and MS Code §45-9-101 that was signed into law April 15, 2016.  

Open carry is just as it’s labeled – examples of open carry would be shouldering a rifle with a sling, or wearing a holster on the hip or thigh and having the weapon in the holster.  Conversely, placing a firearm in a pocket or waist band covered by a shirt would conceal it. 

One of the primary questions that I’m asked is - “Can I have a gun in my car if I do not have a permit?” My answer is Yes, anything you have legally in your house is legal in your vehicle, as your vehicle is considered an extension of your home.

Usually the next question is: “What about in my purse, and where can I take or not take it?” My answer Yes, you can carry in your purse, and it just depends what type of permit you have as to where you can go with it in-state and if you are traveling out-of-state, whether that state allows some form of “reciprocity” concealed carry for Mississippians with a permit.

People Who May Not Carry a Gun  in Mississippi:
The following individuals are prohibited from carrying a weapon in Mississippi.  (The first  two on this list apply only to those seeking a  concealed carry permit through the state.  The first two could legally own and openly  carry any firearm other than a pistol (21 Federal, 18 w/exceptions by MS §97-37-14). 

• Those younger than 21 years old  (or 18 if a member of the Armed Forces)
• Non-Mississippi residents, or people who have been residents for fewer than 12 months (this requirement is waived if you have a valid permit from another state, you are an active military member stationed in Mississippi, or are a retired law enforcement officer establishing residency in Mississippi)
• Convicted felons
• Fugitives from justice
• Those that suffer from any physical infirmity that prevents safe handling of a firearm
• Those that suffer from drug addiction, or have been committed for treatment of these conditions within the past three years
• People who chronically use alcohol to the  extent that theirrtheir normal facilities are  impaired, have been committed to a treatment facility for alcohol abuse, or have been convicted of two or more offenses related to alcohol in the last three years
• Those who have been adjudicated as mentally incompetent, or restored to capacity by court order within the last five years
• Those who have been committed to a  mental health institution or treatment facility within the past five years
• Those who have pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence (Lautenburg Amendment “Federal”)
• Those prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law

Concealed without a permit: 
Mississippians not included in the prohibited list may openly carry a firearm without a permit as well as carry concealed firearms — “hidden or obscured from common observation” — as long as they are in a holster or sheath. 

A previous law allows such permit-less concealed carry in a purse, satchel, briefcase or bag. However, one cannot carry a gun without a permit into:

• A police, sheriff’s or highway patrol station.
• A school — elementary, secondary, community college or university — except for an authorized firearm-related activity.
• A detention facility, prison or jail.
• A courthouse or courtroom.
• A polling place for elections.
• A meeting place of a governing body, including the Legislature and legislative committee meetings.
• A school, college or professional athletic event not related to firearms.
• Bars, or the bar areas of restaurants or any area of an establishment primarily devoted to dispensing alcoholic beverages.
• An airport terminal, except properly baggage guns to be checked for lawful transporting on an aircraft.
• A church or place of worship — except as provided in a new law for a church’s authorized armed security team.
• Any place where carrying a firearm is prohibited by federal law (such as a federal courthouse or post office).
• A private business or property that properly posts notice that firearms are banned.
• Any area that has been declared a “place of nuisance” because of illegal activity.

Concealed carry with a standard permit: 
For those wanting to obtain a standard state concealed carry permit — they would undergo a background check and fingerprinting, however are still prohibited from carrying in the areas as permit-less carry, such as courtrooms, polling places, bars and schools.

So why get this permit?
Because more than 30 other states allow some form of “reciprocity” concealed carry for Mississippians with a permi,t and those with a permit are exempt from having another background check when they purchase a gun.

Concealed carry with An “enhanced” permit: 
Those who undergo eight hours of certified training can receive an endorsement on their concealed carry permit that allows them to carry in most places otherwise restricted. But an enhanced permit holder still cannot carry in:

• An area declared a place of nuisance.
• A police, sheriff or Highway Patrol station.
• A detention facility, prison or jail.
• Any place where carrying a firearm is prohibited by federal law (such as a federal courthouse or post office).
• A private business or property that properly posts (see below) notice that firearms are banned.  An enhanced permit holder could face trespassing charges, but not a violation of concealed carry law.
• A courtroom while court is in session.

Schools:
While one section of state law says an  enhanced permit holder can carry on school, community college or university property,  another says it’s illegal. An AG’s opinion from 2012 says campus carry is allowed for enhanced permit holders. State law says someone not attending or working for a school can possess a firearm in their vehicle, but federal law would require a state-issued permit for it. 

Private property rights:
Private property owners still have the right to ban firearms on their premises by posting signs. Someone carrying a gun onto such private property could face trespassing charges or a firearms charge if they are otherwise violating a gun-carry law.  To ban firearms, a property owner must place written notice, clearly readable at a distance of not less than 10 feet, that says “carrying of a pistol or revolver is prohibited.”

Castle Doctrine:
Mississippi has what is commonly known as a Castle Doctrine, a law created in 2007, allowing any law-abiding citizen with or without a gun permit to shoot an intruder who unlawfully comes into your house or the building you are visiting.  Before the law, homeowners had to first seek a safe retreat from an intruder before using deadly force.

This law removed that requirement and provides protection to citizens from criminal prosecution who defend their homes when they are in a reasonable fear for their lives. The law extends to Mississippi citizens in vehicles. Again, an important point here is that if a citizen is in his/her home or vehicle there is no need for any type of permit. 

Closure:
At the end of the day, you can carry a gun anywhere you could have carried with the regular permit. The issue is reciprocity with other states that is based on permits.  While fully respecting the Second Amendment rights and the foundation this country was based on, walking around with a weapon displayed is not the most intelligent choice someone can make. It brings unnecessary attention to “that guy” in a world where both domestic and international threats linger. 

Someone who chooses to carry a firearm should get the proper training and learn not only the fundamentals of the weapon, but the skills to use it if they are ever unfortunately placed in a situation to use it and defend themselves.  There are some good ways to stay safe  when people decide to carry firearms:  Let law enforcement officers verbally know on a traffic stop, don’t attempt to carry one into a place that prohibits it –and above all – always keep firearms away from a child’s access.

Richie McCluskey
Chief of Police
Flowood Police Department
NRA Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor (Since 1997)