The Mississippi concealed firearms law has been amended to allow licensed gun owners who have “additional” training to carry concealed firearms in certain locations previously prohibited by law. These locations include courthouses, polling places, government meetings, any school, college or professional athletic event, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, any elementary or secondary school facility, any junior college, community college, college or university facility, inside the passenger terminal of any airport, and in any church or other place of worship. The amendment is to Mississippi Code Section 97-37-1, the law making it a crime to carry a conceal weapon, including a pistol or revolver, “except as otherwise provided in [Mississippi Code] Section 45-9-101.”
Under the amendment, a holder of a permit to carry a concealed weapon must complete an eight-hour course in addition to the regular concealed carry permit requirements to receive an “endorsement” to carry in prohibited locations. The Mississippi Attorney General opined that permit holders with the endorsement can carry concealed weapons in places that were statutorily prohibited by Mississippi Code Ann. 45-9-101(13). The only exception noted in the amendment is a courtroom during a judicial proceeding.
Mississippi Code Ann. 45-9-101(13) identifies the following locations as being off limits, absent an endorsement:
any polling place; any meeting place of the governing body of any governmental entity; any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof; any public park unless for the purpose of participating in any authorized firearms-related activity; any school, college or professional athletic event not related to firearms; any portion of an establishment, licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, that is primarily devoted to dispensing alcoholic beverages; any portion of an establishment in which beer or light wine is consumed on the premises, that is primarily devoted to such purpose; any elementary or secondary school facility; any junior college, community college, college or university facility unless for the purpose of participating in any authorized firearms-related activity; inside the passenger terminal of any airport, except that no person shall be prohibited from carrying any legal firearm into the terminal if the firearm is encased for shipment, for purposes of checking such firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported on any aircraft; any church or other place of worship; or any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law. In addition to the places enumerated in this subsection, the carrying of a concealed pistol or revolver may be disallowed in any place in the discretion of the person or entity exercising control over the physical location of such place by the placing of a written notice clearly readable at a distance of not less than ten (10) feet that the “carrying of a pistol or revolver is prohibited.”
Interaction with Gun-to-Work Law
Mississippi’s gun-to-work law (Title 45 - Public Safety and Good Order) allows an employer to bar weapons from the workplace. This is despite the amendment. The law, however, prohibits an employer from banning employees from leaving their legally possessed guns in their vehicles in the employer’s parking lot, unless access to the parking area is limited by use of a gate, security station, or other means.
The amendment to Mississippi Code Section 97-37-1 raises the question whether an employee working in a bar, restaurant, school campus, or any other statutorily identified location can be legally prohibited from carrying a concealed weapon into that workplace.
The amendment seems to compel employers to allow firearms in bars, but permit them to ban firearms in less risky locations that are not statutorily identified. Whether courts will agree with such an anomalous result will have to be seen.
Classes of Permits
The amendment raises another troubling issue: it appears to create two classes of concealed weapons permits. One class exempts the holder (who has additional training and an endorsement) from criminal penalty pursuant to Mississippi Code Ann. 97-31-1 for carrying a concealed weapon in the previously prohibited locations listed in Mississippi Code Ann. 45-9-101(13).
The second class does not exempt the holder (who has no endorsement) from criminal penalty for violation of Mississippi Code Ann. 97-31-1 for carrying a concealed weapon in statutorily prohibited locations.
Effect of Notice Posting
Another troubling issue raised by the amendment involves the concealed weapon statute’s notice provision. It allows a person or entity exercising control over a physical location to post a notice at that location that says: “carrying of a pistol or revolver is prohibited.” In response to a county Sheriff’s inquiry about the statutory notice on county property, the Attorney General opined that as such a location is considered one of the locations listed in Mississippi Code Ann. 45-9-101(13), it is not a violation of the concealed weapon law for a permit holder with an endorsement to have a gun on county property.
The Attorney General’s broad interpretation suggests that posting a notice does not apply to individuals with an endorsed concealed weapon permit. Employers are faced with the difficulty of how legally to prohibit endorsed permit holders from possessing a gun when the workplace is one identified in Mississippi Code Ann. 45-9-101(13). This concern must be balanced against the employer’s obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees.
Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to answer inquiries regarding this and other workplace developments.
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