In situation almost identical to Wyoming in 2013, Mississippi House debating whether judges can extend courtroom gun bans to cover courthouses

Over the last several years various states have debated prohibitions on courthouse carry; should the public in general, or concealed carry permit holders in particular, be allowed to bring their guns to court? Mississippi in 2011 opted for a broad carry policy, one that it is in the process of debating again.

In 2011 Mississippi enacted HB 506, a law allowing anyone with a concealed carry permit who took a gun safety court to carry their guns into courthouses (discussed here).

A person licensed under Section 45-9-101 to carry a concealed pistol, who has voluntarily completed an instructional course in the safe handling and use of firearms offered by an instructor certified by a nationally recognized organization that customarily offers firearms training, or by any other organization approved by the Department of Public Safety, shall also be authorized to carry weapons in courthouses except in courtrooms during a judicial proceeding… (emphasis added)

The law also allows judges to ban guns in courtrooms (“This section shall in no way interfere with the right of a trial judge to restrict the carrying of firearms in the courtroom.”)

The issue came to a head recently when the Lowndes County Chancery Court in late 2015 issued an order extending the courtroom ban to 200 feet outside the courtroom during judicial proceedings (news on issue here and here).

Two bills are looking to alter these provisions.

HB 561 repeals the 2011 provisions allowing for courthouse carry entirely.

HB 571 keeps the existing law, but defines what is a “courthouse” and a “courtroom” very narrowly. A “courtroom” for example would not include “hallways, courtroom entrances, courthouse grounds, lobbies, corridors, or other areas within a courthouse which are generally open to the public for the transaction of business outside of an active judicial proceeding.”

The situation is almost identical to one that occurred in 2012 in Wyoming. There, existing law provided for a courtroom ban, which a local judge by administrative order extended to cover the entire courthouse. The Wyoming legislature then passed a law (HB 216 of 2013) which narrowly defined courtroom and explicitly allowed for courthouse carry (discussed here).

Both HB 561 and HB 571 have been filed in the House Judiciary B Committee.