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Mississippi: Pro-Gun Right-to-Carry Reform Goes into Effect… Sort of?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

During the 2011 Regular Session, the Mississippi Legislature passed House Bill 506, a bill which relates to prosecutors carrying weapons. It contains an NRA-supported amendment designed to allow concealed pistol permit holders who complete certain training requirements to protect themselves in certain locations currently prohibited by law.  This measure was signed into law by Governor Haley Barbour on March 11.  The language of the amendment reads as follows: 

"a person licensed under Section 45-9-101 to carry a concealed pistol, who has voluntarily completed an instructional course in the safe handling and use of firearms offered by an instructor certified by a nationally recognized organization that customarily offers firearms training, or by any other organization approved by the Department of Public Safety, shall also be authorized to carry weapons in courthouses, except in courtrooms during a judicial proceeding, and any location listed in subsection (13) of Section 45-9-101, except any place of nuisance as defined in Section 95-3-1, any police, sheriff or highway patrol station or any detention facility, prison or jail.  The department shall promulgate rules and regulations allowing concealed pistol permit holders to obtain an endorsement on their permit indicating that they have completed the aforementioned course and have the authority to carry in these locations."

This law went into effect on July 1.  Thus far, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (DPS) has not adopted – or even formally proposed – any rules or regulations for public comment as required by Mississippi law under the Administrative Procedures Act.

The NRA-ILA, amendment authors state Representatives Greg Snowden (R-83), Phillip Gunn (R-56) and Mark Formby (R-108), and individual NRA members who are local attorneys with an interest in the new law have repeatedly attempted to contact DPS over the last few months with questions about how the department intends to allow permit holders to obtain their endorsement.  It is only through persistent investigation that we have obtained documents outlining the direction the department intends to take in this matter.  While we hesitate to comment on anything not yet adopted pursuant to the Mississippi Administrative Procedures Law, the detail in which instructor and curriculum requirements are outlined – and the fact that the law has already taken effect – leads us to believe that this is more than "conceptual.”

From what we are able to discern, the DPS appears poised to implement rules and regulations that would require:

  • Annual approval of instructors (it remains unclear whether NRA Certified Instructors will even be recognized, outright); 
  • Successful completion of a state-developed 16-hour firearms training course to qualify for an endorsement (for comparison's sake, NRA's Personal Protection Outside the Home Course Level I Basic is 9-hours long; Level 2 Advanced is 14-hours long);
  • Students to provide a minimum of 75 rounds to complete a standardized firearms qualification course approved by the department, and another 250 rounds to complete shooting position training. The NRA-ILA is in the process of comparing these course curriculum requirements with NRA-sanctioned courses.
  • NO PRIOR TRAINING WILL BE ACCEPTED BY THE DEPARTMENT IN ORDER TO QUALIFY FOR AN ENDORSEMENT (in other words, if you have completed any of these courses – or more intense training – even within the last year, it apparently may not be recognized).

We believe the proposed regulations are excessive.  The authors of the amendment to HB 506 wrote this letter to Governor Barbour and the Commissioner of DPS in response to rumors that the department was going to require the equivalent of law enforcement training for anyone seeking a special endorsement on their concealed pistol permit.  While the department seems to have backed off those far-reaching requirements, those outlined in these documents demonstrate that there is still vast room for improvement.  The points made by the Representatives in their letter are instructive - the neighboring state of Louisiana has much more straightforward requirements for instructors and training.

The bottom line: The plain language of the amendment passed by the legislature clearly states that persons who have taken a course from an NRA Certified Instructor – such as the NRA's Basic Pistol or Personal Protection Outside the Home Course – should qualify for the endorsement.  Additionally, this was the intent of the authors of the amendment. Annual instructor application requirements and refusal to recognize previously-completed training are excessive and overly-restrictive.

What can you do? 

1)    Please contact DPS Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz at (601) 987-1586 and his Director of the Firearms Permit Unit Sgt. Eugene Williams at ewilliams@mdps.state.ms.us and urge them to adopt rules and regulations for HB 506 that follow the law's language and the intent of the authors by officially recognizing NRA Certified Instructors and the courses they currently teach.

2)    Ask DPS to post the proposed rules on the Secretary of State’s website to allow for the mandatory public notice and comment period required by law.

3)    Contact Governor Haley Barbour by calling (601) 359-3150 or through his website by clicking here, and urge him to step in to ensure that DPS follows the letter and intent of the law regarding HB 506.

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