/Guns in school’ bill passes Senate

Guns in school’ bill passes Senate

Senators voted 27-18 in favor of sending HB 1083 back to the House for review. The House has the option to accept the Senate’s changes, send it back to a conference panel for further work, or reject the bill. Senator Briggs Hopson (R-Vicksburg), said that he was not happy about presenting the bill. Hopson, who is the chairman of Senate Judiciary A Committee, said that it was unfortunate that we live in a society that requires us to consider all possible avenues and protect our children from harm. Hopson claimed that news reports had misled school officials into believing that the bill would allow them to carry concealed weapons in schools. However, that is already allowed by state law. Hopson also stated that the bill wouldn’t require staff to carry weapons. Hopson stated that he was not going to allow more weapons into schools than he did a week or a month ago. Hopson said that the bill would allow school officials with enhanced concealed carry permits to be trained once they have been approved by the local school board. House Bill 1083 is a continuation of a 2011 law that expanded the rules for concealed weapons. The bill allows citizens and public defenders to carry concealed weapons to public places. There are two types of concealed carry permits in Mississippi. The standard concealed carry permit allows an individual to carry their weapon to certain places. However, there are strict guidelines about where it is allowed. An enhanced concealed carry permit holder must take a course taught by a certified instructor who is certified by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and specializes in firearms training. The enhanced permit allows people to bring their guns to many public spaces including schools and universities, colleges, courts (but not in court rooms during a proceeding), polling places and public schools. Senator Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven) successfully amended the bill in order to hide the identities of people who have received special training to carry concealed weapons in schools. He also required a psychological screening and required them to pass a shooting proficiency exam. Due to provisions regarding sporting events at college campuses, the original HB 1083 sparked backlash from university leaders and the Southeastern Conference. The Senate approved the bill. A committee removed much of its original language and replaced it by the Mississippi School Safety Act. This would allow teachers and other public school employees to have firearms on K-12 campuses, provided they had completed safety training. Hopson stated that he didn’t anticipate any objections from the SEC and other collegiate athletic conferences regarding the amended bill. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton), principal author of HB1083, stated that he hadn’t read the Senate text in its entirety, but objected to language that said permit holders couldn’t bring weapons to school athletic events. He said he supports the provision that allows teachers and staff to carry concealed guns, but he needs to look more closely at the bill’s language. Gipson stated, “I support this concept, but the problem is the creation of an exception in the bill that does not exist today.” Since 2011, permit holders have been able to carry weapons on college campuses. Gipson stated that universities had adopted contradictory policies. Therefore, the bill that left the House said that any policy that contradicts the law could be challenged with an attorney general. He would then provide an opinion and give the agency the chance to correct their policy. “Now it’s creating an exception for a gun-free area that doesn’t exist in the law. “So I’m going have to look at it.” Hopson did not respond to Gipson’s comments after the vote but stated that the Senate version was in response to safety concerns at sporting events. A group of 325 college and university officials sent a letter to the Senate asking for their opposition to the bill. The letter stated that “any classroom equipped with a gun is very different from one without one.” A classroom without a gun is no place where students or teachers can have stimulating and challenging conversations. The Senate debate also included references to the recent Parkland shooting, which resulted in 17 deaths. Barbara Blackmon (D-Canton), cited a study showing that the New York Police Department had an 18% hit rate in shootouts. Blackmon asked the question during debate: “If professionally trained police officers have only a 20% rate of hitting their target in a shootout, what would you expect a teacher in a classroom’s rate to be?” “This bill gives our school leaders another way to increase security on their campuses in a responsible fashion,” Lt. Governor. Reeves stated in a statement sent by his office shortly after the vote. Reeves stated in a statement sent by his office immediately following the vote.