By Greg Griffith

Carl Spence jumped to action upon finding a strange pickup truck in his driveway and two strangers walking around his Jackson, Mississippi, area home. Spence blocked the truck with his car, ran into the house and called 911. He then grabbed his shotgun and went back outside, where the pair was trying to escape. They stopped and waited for police when they saw Spence’s shotgun.

Aaron Smith was waiting outside the Crystal Springs, Mississippi, convenience store where his wife works when he heard her scream. He started inside, where a man was rifling the till and holding a gun to his wife’s chest, but retreated when the gunman pointed the pistol at him. Smith grabbed a 12-ga. shotgun from his car, and when the crook exited the store, ordered him to stop. Instead of complying, the man raised his gun, and Smith killed him.

Knocked to the floor of his Corinth, Mississippi, home by a knife-wielding attacker and told that he was about to be killed, the 80-year-old man offered his money and car keys to the thug in hopes of appeasing him. It was to no avail, however, as the assailant forced the man to a bedroom and again informed him he was about to die. When his tormentor momentarily left the room, the elderly man took his only chance for survival. Grabbing his .38, he charged into the hall and loosed two rounds at his attacker, who immediately fled the home.

These are just a few of the thousands of examples of how Mississippians have used firearms to defend themselves and their loved ones from violent attackers. Each year across America, there are two million incidents in which law-abiding citizens use firearms in self-defense. Sadly, however, many of those citizens find themselves in the position of having to demonstrate to authorities afterwards – under threat of prosecution – that an intruder in their home or car did in fact mean to harm them.

Last year a landmark law was passed by the state of Florida that changed the way citizens are expected to react to a threat, and what they are required to demonstrate during the subsequent investigation. Previously, citizens were required under Florida law to fire shots only as a last resort. If they shot an intruder, they had to prove that they could not have escaped the situation. This is called the “duty to retreat.”

In April of 2005, however, the Florida legislature overwhelmingly passed a new law that removed the duty to retreat, and allowed those being attacked to use deadly force even if they could have escaped the situation. Called the “castle doctrine” by the man who conceived the bill, former NRA president Marion P. Hammer, the law broadens the notion that a person’s home is his castle, and that vehicles and property are extensions of it. The bill was backed by the National Rifle Association and had widespread support among Florida law enforcement agencies.

Mississippians can thank state senator Charlie Ross for introducing Senate Bill 2426, which amends section 97-3-15 of the state code to favor those confronted with intruders on their property.

Mississippi is already one of the nation’s best states to live in if you value the right to defend yourself. There is no firearm registration requirement, and no waiting period to purchase a gun. Only the federal Form 4473 – used to check whether you’re a convicted felon or currently wanted by the FBI – is required for the purchase of a gun, and then only when the purchase is made from a registered dealer. Private transactions are unregulated.

Those over the age of 18 may carry a firearm in their car under the state’s “peaceable journey” clause, and the state code has a provision that specifically prohibits the gathering by the state of firearm serial numbers.

Mississippi permits concealed carry of firearms, and is one of the nation’s 34 “shall issue” state, meaning the state shall issue a concealed carry permit (CCP) to anyone who is legally allowed to own a firearm, upon completion of requisite paperwork and the payment of a small fee, without requiring the recipient to demonstrate a need for self-protection. Other states fall into the “may issue” category, in which the issuance of a CCP is left to the discretion of state or local law enforcement. Only Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin are “no issue” states.

So why, if Mississippi’s gun laws are so unrestrictive, does Ross believe we need this amendment?