Rep. Charles Young, D-Meridian, holds up an unloaded gun on the House floor Thursday to oppose a bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to sue agencies that limit their ability to carry weapons.

A gun-wielding Democratic lawmaker and more state university statements have fueled more concerns over a plan to strengthen the ability of permit-holding citizens to carry guns on college campuses.

On Thursday, the Mississippi House approved legislation that allows enhanced concealed carry permit holders to sue agencies that deny their ability to carry weapons.

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 courtrooms when a proceeding is underway), polling places, public schools and other public places.

During debate on a procedural motion, Rep. Charles Young, D-Meridian, stood at a podium in the front of the chamber and held a handgun in the air, drawing gasps and surprised looks from several fellow lawmakers. Young said several lawmakers are known to carry concealed weapons despite legislative rules that prohibit them from doing so.

At Young’s request, Speaker Philip Gunn instructed the sergeant-at-arms to remove Young from the chamber for violating the rules.

“I believe in the 2nd Amendment. We’re taking it to an extreme. We want guns in schools, we want guns in churches, we want guns on the House floor and we need to acknowledge what our rules are,” Young said in an interview with Mississippi Today after being escorted out of the chamber.

In a Feb. 7 letter to Mississippi State President Mark Keenum and University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeff Vitter, Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey warned of the repercussions for those institutions if the bill becomes law.

The letter warned “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.”

Speaking at an alumni luncheon in Jackson, University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter added his voice to state higher education officials’ concerns about the bill’s impact.

Vitter noted the letter from the SEC commissioner, adding that while it was not stated directly in that letter, the bill could open the door for other SEC university leaders to vote Ole Miss and Mississippi State out of the conference.

Vitter also expressed concern about guns in university classrooms, saying police officials have expressed concerns about arriving on a live shooting scene and not being sure who the shooter was and therefore having to shoot anyone with a weapon.

Vitter’s concerned were echoed by several officials at Delta State University, including the campus police chief, athletic director and President William N. LaForge

“A university is no place for guns — period,” LaForge said in a news release. “And that goes doubly for residence halls, classroom buildings and athletic facilities. To enable the legal carrying of guns on a university campus in today’s society is misdirected and unwise.”

The bill must pass the Senate to become law.

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Ryan L. Nave, a native of University City, Mo., served as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief from May 2018 until April 2020. Ryan began his career with Mississippi Today February 2016 as an original member of the editorial team. He became news editor August 2016. Ryan has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked for Illinois Times and served as news editor for the Jackson Free Press.