Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Florida high-school students are walking out of classrooms this week in protest to the latest mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., where a teenager killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an assault rifle last week. Meanwhile in Mississippi, lawmakers could expand citizen's rights with enhanced conceal-carry permits to include seeking relief from courts when they are prohibited from bringing firearms into places technically allowed by state law.
Current state law allows a Mississippian with an enhanced concealed-carry license to carry their firearms into polling places, government meetings, college athletic events, bars, elementary schools, airport terminals and college campuses.
The thousands of Mississippians who can carry a hidden weapon into public schools, college games and even the airport have had background checks and had to take a training course. Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, who authored House Bill 1083, says these licensees have earned their right to carry.
"This recognizes people who care enough to take the class, to pay their fees, to spend an entire day of their lives to renew it, do the right thing and get trained. They should have the right to carry to protect themselves and their families," he told the House. The Florida shooter also had that right; he was law-abiding until he killed 17 people.
In theory, Second Amendment rights look great, but in reality, public safety rarely takes priority. Even former Gov. Haley Barbour was stopped at the Jackson airport for his gun because, never mind Mississippi law, it's against federal law to take a weapon through security, let alone onto an airplane. Similarly, even a Mississippian with an enhanced carry license is likely going to be turned away from the Egg Bowl if he tries to bring in a gun. Stadiums have rules—and public safety to consider.
Lawmakers need to not only let HB 1083 die but also revisit the state's current gun laws. Allowing guns in schools, stadiums and polling places as a policy—even if the carrier has a background check and training—needs to be re-evaluated. As a country and a state, are we really safer with more guns in a space than we are with less or none?
In 2015, Mississippi had the second-highest rate of firearm-related deaths nationally, the Centers for Disease Control found.
As families grieve and politicians offer more "thoughts and prayers," we call on Mississippi legislators to take a hard look at what can be done in the statehouse to bring that rate down and, hopefully, avoid unnecessary violence going forward.
As for assault weapons such as AR-15s, there is no reason for them to be legal—and 17 reasons in Parkland, Fla., last week that they shouldn't be.