So, your faithful correspondent comes back into port after a week on the high seas, away from the Internet and all state and local news. Immediately, I go online and type into the search engine. And one of the first headlines I see is this one: “SEC, university officials warn of repercussions of concealed carry bill.”

And I think to myself: Seriously?

And then I read on to learn that, indeed, the House has passed a bill (introduced by Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton) that would allow permit-holding citizens to carry guns on college campuses and therefore into athletic events.

And I think to myself: Of all the ill-conceived, dimwitted, nonsensical ideas I’ve ever heard, this one takes the proverbial cake and eats it, too.

I have spent a lifetime of attending college athletic events, where emotions run high, liquor is consumed by the gallons, and otherwise sane human beings often act like insane fanatics. At least twice – once at a basketball game and once at the end of a football game – empty liquor bottles, presumably aimed at officials, have whizzed past my head.

Bullets are much easier to aim than liquor bottles.

The story goes on to say that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey had written letters to Mark Keenum at Mississippi State and Jeff Vitter at Ole Miss saying, among other things, that adding weapons to the already intense atmosphere at athletic events increases safety concerns and would negatively impact both athletic programs.

Wrote Sankey: “…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 during the recruiting process and fan attendance will be negatively impacted.”

SEC, university officials warn of repercussions of concealed carry bill

Sankey’s concern is sports events. But this proposed law (which awaits action by the Senate) would negatively affect far more than games. I’ll give you just one for-instance: Let’s say a chemistry student meets with a professor after receiving a failing grade that will cost the student his scholarship and/or cause the student to be expelled or suspended from the university. The student pleads his case. The professor stands his ground. But little does the prof know the student packs a pistol in a shoulder holster under his jacket.

But this is a sports column and sports is the subject I know best. And I know this: Allowing fans – short for fanatics – to legally carry concealed weapons into emotionally charged sports events is begging for trouble.

I can tell you for certain that the late A.C. “Butch” Lambert would agree. Lambert, a Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer, was a player, a coach, an SEC football and basketball official, an influential state legislator and State Tax Commissioner. Lambert once told me about the time he was officiating a basketball game between Centenary College and Tulane at Fogelman Arena in New Orleans, where beer was – and still is – sold and copiously consumed.

“I had three or four tough calls in a row to make and all of them were against Tulane,” Butch told me. “The next thing I know is this guy has come down out of the stands with a knife that has at least a four- or five-inch blade on it. The guy hollers at me, ‘You make one more bleepin’ call against Tulane and I’m gonna cut your guts out.’

“So wouldn’t you know it,” Butch continued, laughing at his own predicament, “the next thing that happens is a Tulane player charges into a Centenary player. I call it, and here the guy comes, heading straight for me. Luckily, a cop reached out and grabbed him just as he was about onto the court. I really believe he was going to try and cut my guts out.”

The obvious question – and one senators should strongly consider: What if that guy had been packing a pistol instead of a knife?

Gun-waving lawmaker triggers more concealed carry concerns

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.