On Tuesday October 1, 2013, the office of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood issued an opinion reinforcing and expanding its prior decisions on the carrying of firearms by enhanced licensees on educational property. The opinion helps to clarify some questions regarding the enhanced license law and its effect on the state ban on possession of firearms on educational property and school districts' authority to regulate the concealed carry of firearms on property under their control.
A prior opinion by the Attorney General's office issued on January 5, 2012, made clear the Attorney General's position that the state ban on possession of firearms on educational property (Miss. Code Ann. 97-37-17) does not apply to a person in possession of a valid license issued pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. 97-37-7(2). The opinion issued on Tuesday reaffirms the AG office's position that the educational property ban does not apply to enhanced licensees. Additionally, the Tuesday opinion addresses the issue of whether school districts can exercise their authority to prohibit enhanced licensees from carrying on educational property they control.
Deputy Attorney General Michael Lanford, on behalf of the Attorney General, conducted a thorough analysis of the intent of the legislature in enacting the enhanced licensing regime. He examined the places that the enhanced license provision explicitly allows enhanced licensees to carry their handguns, which include "any elementary or secondary school facility" and "any school . . . athletic event . . . ." Considering the broad locations on educational property where the legislature expressly allowed enhanced licensees to carry their handguns, the opinion concluded that it would contravene the intent of the legislature for local school districts to be permitted to prohibit enhanced licensees from carrying handguns on educational property.
In addition to the above analysis of the application of the enhanced license provision to educational property, the opinion also addressed certain locations where state law can continue to be enforced to prohibit persons from carrying concealed firearms.
First, the opinion discussed that private property owners could continue to prohibit enhanced licensees, in addition to those holding a standard concealed license, from carrying on property under the owners' control. Second, the opinion addressed carry by enhanced licensees in non-public areas of educational property, and found that the entity responsible for control of the property can prohibit all licensees from carrying on non-public educational property. Finally, the opinion determined that schools could continue to prohibit their own employees, by contract or policy, from carrying firearms on school property, no matter what type of concealed carry license the employee may hold.
The opinion issued on Tuesday follows the Attorney General's office's recent successful defense of Mississippians' right to openly carry firearms.