Upholds key components of legislation but allows for certain restrictions on where unconcealed firearms may be carried
As recently reported, the State Legislature passed and Governor Phil Bryant (R) signed into law several pro-Second Amendment bills this session, including House Bill 2 by state Representative Andy Gipson (R-Braxton) and state Senator Giles Ward (R-Louisville). This new law makes critical changes to the state's gun carry laws. A July 2012 opinion issued by state Attorney General Jim Hood (D) determined that it was unlawful under existing statutes for anyone to a carry holstered, partially-visible pistol on their person. Additionally, any concealed carry permit holder who temporarily or accidentally displayed their firearm when removing or adjusting a suit or sport jacket would be violating the law. HB 2 addressed these issues by revising the definition of "concealed" as it applies to the carrying of firearms by permit holders and non-permittees alike, and is slated to become law on July 1.
This week, the Attorney General's office released this draft opinion in response to questions submitted by Tate County Sheriff Brad Lance. While key provisions of the law appear to be upheld, it leaves the door open for future restrictions on the unlicensed, open carry of firearms in certain locations. Among the findings in the draft opinion, which NRA-ILA will continue to comb through and analyze, are:
- A state-issued permit continues to be required if the firearm being carried is concealed. According to the draft opinion, “if enough of the firearm is visible so that it is readily apparent to ‘common observation’, then the firearm is not concealed.” Therefore, a firearm would not be considered concealed if it is carried in a holster or a sheath as long as any portion of the holster or sheath remains visible.
- State law continues to prohibit someone from carrying an unconcealed firearm on any “educational property.”
- Private property owners may disallow persons carrying unconcealed or concealed firearms from entering their establishments, through the posting of a sign or a verbal warning.
- Sheriffs, localities and state agencies may limit the carrying of unconcealed firearms in courthouses, jails and other “sensitive areas”, but the scope of their authority under the opinion seems to be limited to “proprietary powers” – meaning that the restriction could be enforced as a trespass violation but not necessarily as a criminal violation of any law or ordinance.
- House Bill 2 will not affect the authority of counties and municipalities to regulate the carrying of firearms at public parks; public meetings of a county, municipality or other governmental body; political rallies, parades or other official political meetings; or non-firearm related school, college or professional athletic events under exceptions to the state firearms preemption law.