By: Rep. Andy Gipson
Southeastern Conference and Mississippi higher education administration officials have recently engaged in deceptive and misguided criticism of House Bill 1083, enhanced carry permit legislation recently approved in the Mississippi House by an overwhelming 80-29 vote. Not only are they mischaracterizing the purpose of the bill, they are fabricating myths about its language apparently in an effort to mask the fact that they have been ignoring the law and unnecessarily restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens for years.
HB 1083 establishes a process for permit holders to peacefully challenge restrictions imposed on them by state entities that, for years, have wrongly excluded them from their premises. It tracks a procedure established in law back in 2014 for law-abiding citizens to dispute unlawful local restrictions on the carrying of firearms. If state agencies or higher education institutions aren’t violating the enhanced carry permit law, they should not be impacted by this legislation. If they are crying foul, then they may need a history lesson. This might actually be the case, since the campus carry law predates the tenure of all but one of our eight university presidents.
The enhanced carry permit law was enacted in 2011, establishing an option for concealed pistol permit holders age 21 or older to obtain an enhanced endorsement on their permit after completion of eight hours of classroom and live-fire range instruction from a DPS-approved instructor, including a review of the legal requirements of concealed carry in Mississippi and laws relating to the use of deadly force. The endorsement allowed permit holders to protect themselves in locations that could be soft targets for criminals, where regular permit holders without the training could not carry. This included “any . . . college or university facility” and “any school, college or professional athletic event not related to firearms.”
This law, which passed the House unanimously, has been in existence for almost seven years. An Attorney General’s opinion issued to IHL in 2012 confirmed that universities could not ban enhanced carry permit holders from their campuses. Since then, IHL and its member universities have chosen to disregard the law by adopting policies restricting the population of responsible, trained gun owners. Myself, and more than a majority of my colleagues in the Mississippi House felt it was time to create a fair process for our citizens to challenge these unlawful policies. If you believe that unelected officials should be allowed to continue to violate the law and restrict the rights of our most law-abiding citizens, then maybe HB 1083 is not your cup of tea.
No doubt we can expect to hear a continuing parade of horribles about HB 1083, and not-so-veiled threats from the SEC about what will happen if the bill is enacted into law. Meanwhile, serious questions should be asked of these unelected officials who are denying enhanced carry permit holders the legal right to protect themselves on their campuses. Questions could include whether a “clear purse” rule for women attending football games is really an adequate rule for event security. While our universities have spent so much energy in seven years to prevent trained, law-abiding citizens from exercising self-protection, what actions have they actually taken to prevent security breaches by would-be criminals?
Andy Gipson serves as State Representative, District 77 and Chairman of House Judiciary B in the Mississippi Legislature. He is one of forty co-authors of HB 1083.