The Southeastern Conference warned Mississippi universities of the consequences should a recently debated concealed carry bill pass in the Legislature. Nonetheless, the House passed a bill Wednesday morning that strengthens permit-holding citizens ability to carry guns on college campuses.
In a Feb. 7 letter to Mississippi State President Mark Keenum and University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeff Vitter, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey warned of the repercussions if the bill becomes law.
“Given the intense atmosphere surrounding athletic events, adding weapons increases meaningful safety concerns and is expected to negatively impact the intercollegiate athletics programs at your universities in several ways,” Sankey said.
Should House Bill 1083 pass, it “…is likely that competitors will decline opportunities to play in Oxford and Starkville, game officials will decline assignments, personal safety concerns will be used against Mississippi’s universities during the recruiting process and fan attendance will be negatively impacted.”
Sankey released a similar statement when Arkansas was considering similar legislation last year. Ultimately the bill that passed exempted college sporting events from places where one can legally carry.
The bill was authored by Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, who iterated to members that the bill does not change or expand the places one can bring a weapon, but it ensures that people with an enhanced concealed carry permit can sue entities that deny them.
The Institutions of Higher Learning currently allows “authorized users” (law enforcement officers and permit holders) to bring firearms onto campus, but no one is allowed to bring them on to non-public areas.
In a statement, IHL Commissioner Glenn Boyce said “the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors on our university campuses is a top priority for the Board of Trustees and university leaders.”
“HB 1083 compromises our ability to protect and ensure the safety of those on our campuses because it nullifies and prohibits any policies and/or authority to designate sensitive areas of campus where weapons should not be allowed.”
The bill states authorized permit holders can “file suit for declarative and injunctive relief” against the agency or entity that refused them.
“We have great concerns about the prospect of a broad expansion of the existing IHL policies regarding firearms being brought onto campus because of the increased risk it would pose for every member of our campus community,” Keenum said in a statement.
In a separate statement, Vitter urged legislators to consider the negative implications of the bill.
” It would put our campus community, law enforcement, and first responders at great risk by allowing weapons in sensitive places such as classrooms, hospitals, clinics, and athletic and performance venues,” Vitter said.
Current law states that a person must be at least 21 (with the exception of those 18 and up in the U.S. Armed Forces), have no felonies on his or her record, and does not “chronically or habitually” abuse controlled substances.
Wednesday’s bill updates a separate bill passed by the Mississippi Legislature in 2011. House Bill 506 allows all public defenders to carry concealed weapons, and also allows individuals who undergo specific training to do so as well.
There are two main types of concealed carry permit laws in Mississippi. Under the standard concealed carry law, users who pass a background check may carry a concealed weapon in certain places, but face strict parameters on locations they can legally carry.
To obtain an enhanced concealed carry permit, individuals must complete a safety course offered by a certified instructor from a nationally recognized organization that specializes in firearms training, according to the bill.
An enhanced concealed carry permit allows people to bring their weapons with them to a litany of public spaces, including university and college campuses, courthouses (but not court rooms when a proceeding is underway), polling places, public schools, and other public places.