By JACK ELLIOTT JR., Associated Press

December 5, 2013

Certain gun owners can carry concealed weapons even in areas where a local government has posted signs banning them, the attorney general’s office said Thursday in an opinion aimed at clarifying Mississippi’s gun laws.

Gun owners who hold “enhanced permits” can take their weapons to places like churches, voting precincts and even inside passenger terminals of airports, even if there are signs posted to expressly prohibit guns, Assistant Attorney General Ricky G. Luke said in an opinion originally crafted in response to a request from the city of Corinth.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement that he is a gun owner and avid hunter, but is “deeply disturbed” by attorney general’s opinion.

“Allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons into polling places, government meeting spaces, airports and schools is a clear risk to the safety of Mississippians,” Thompson said. “In light of the recent gun violence at the Los Anegeles International Airport, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown and even the Washington Navy Yard, we must begin to carefully analyze and fine-tune our gun laws to prohibit the carrying of firearms in sensitive locations.”

He said the governor and legislature should review the laws and make adjustments.

Luke said that how far a local government can go on limiting weapons varies, depending on whether it is addressing the standard permit for carrying a concealed weapon or the “enhanced” permit, which requires firearms training.

Under Mississippi law, a person with a standard permit may not carry a concealed weapon in certain places, including schools, colleges or professional athletic events “not related to firearms.” The state also has a new law that says adults do not need permits to carry a gun that is not concealed.

Luke said regardless of whether a sign is posted, people with enhanced permits can take their weapons into 13 types of places, including voting precincts, government meetings, churches, college athletic events, parades and inside the passenger terminal of an airport.

He said cities can post signs to prohibit standard permit holders from entering property owned or controlled by the city, such as a public park or municipal building, with a gun. He said similar prohibitions can be applied to people openly carrying weapons. The restrictions won’t apply to enhanced permit holders, although state law generally bans most guns from school and college campuses.

Corinth attorney Wendell Trapp Jr. said he wrote to the attorney general’s office to seek clarification after the city adopted an ordinance prohibiting the possession of firearms in certain areas that made no distinction between whether firearms are being openly carried or concealed. The city also asked Hood if it could post signs at places it wanted to bar firearms.

“We want to be as sure we can be. I think there are lots of cities, counties and law enforcement that have similar questions,” Trapp said in a phone interview.

Although legal opinions from the attorney general’s office are not binding, they provide guidance to public officials as they do their jobs.

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