Debate over guns in courthouses continues before Harrison County supervisors

Debate over guns in courthouses continues before Harrison County supervisors

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It’s a battle that’s far from over: guns in Harrison County courthouses. On Monday, a gun advocate Rick Ward argued for his enhanced conceal carry rights before the Board of Supervisors.

“I’m just a private citizen here to exercise my rights,” he said to the Board.

Ward argued that he as an enhanced concealed carry license holder should be allowed on the second floor of Harrison County courthouses, even when court is in session.

“You’ll see that the enhanced carry bill when it was passed 7 years ago, that’s how long ago it should have been abided by, and it’s still not being abided by today," Ward said during his presentation.

In 2011, the legislature allowed license holders access to courthouses.

In 2016, Ward filed a lawsuit against judges in Lowndes County who banned license holders. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in his favor.

“It’s just been a three year struggle, and the Supreme Court has ruled in my favor. And in this particular case, this is the only county that hasn’t complied with the ruling," said Ward.

Sheriff Troy Peterson says that’s because the ruling applies to Mississippi’s fourteenth Judicial District, which doesn’t include Harrison County. Peterson also says the courthouses fall under an exemption because there’s a detention facility in the courthouse.

“You have to look at each courthouse individually. So, no matter what anything said, it has to go back to the legislature. They have to change that law to be more specific about what they’re talking about," said Peterson.

Peterson has followed an attorney general’s recommendation to change these signs to say guns are banned only when court is in session.

And like Peterson, county attorney Tim Holleman says it boils down to public safety.

“I’m a firm believer in the right to carry and bear arms. That’s not something I would oppose at all. But, we also have to balance the dangers to the community," said Holleman.

For now, it appears to be a stalemate, but Ward says his fight is not over.

“The time has come. And we’re the last of the bunch, and we need to get together and comply with the law like everybody else,” said Ward.

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