Packing Heat: A look at MS open carry laws - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Packing Heat: A look at MS open carry laws

Guns are a divisive topic in today's society. (Image Source: WLOX News) Guns are a divisive topic in today's society. (Image Source: WLOX News)
Gun enthusiasts say the important thing is to focus on gun safety. (Image Source: WLOX News) Gun enthusiasts say the important thing is to focus on gun safety. (Image Source: WLOX News)
Man skeet shooting at gun range on Highway 57. (Image Source: WLOX News) Man skeet shooting at gun range on Highway 57. (Image Source: WLOX News)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Guns are one of the most polarizing topics in the country, and for the past 2 1/2 years, Mississippi has allowed the open carry of firearms in public places.

“When we get into our open carry, there was such a hard push to ensure that someone can open carry. We didn't, I don't think we quite framed it out well,” said Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania.

Like many other law enforcement officials, Chief Papania feared that when the open carry law passed, people everywhere would be packing heat. Even though that hasn't been the case, there are still incidents like the one that happened in June of this year, when two young men, ages 18 and 19 walked into Walmart with a shotgun loaded, racked and ready to go.

“So, if you're permitted to get all the way inside of an area that is populated by innocent people, and you're perfectly legal and you want to flip and do that which is bad, the opportunity is great,” said Chief Papania.

Papania doesn't believe the law was intended for people to carry large weapons in public places, but says the wording of the law leaves too much room for interpretation.

“Right up until the racking of that shotgun, it was perfectly legal. Now you don't have to look around our nation hard to see where we're having great acts of violence and our law permits it to be legal all the way up until that point,” said Papania.

Many say that shotgun incident was an extreme example of people exercising their rights under the open carry law. Worries of people wearing side arms like the Wild Wild West have subsided.
 
“I would say the majority of law abiding citizens are very responsible gun owners, and there's no problem with them. It's the ones that are not law abiding with guns that are causing the problem,” said Randy Brownlee.

Randy Brownlee is the president of Coast Rifle and Pistol Club. The group has more than a thousand members that he calls surprisingly diverse.

“Oh I think you would be very well shocked because we I would say a good percentage of the doctors on the coast are members of our club. They shoot very regularly, tons of lawyers, judges, everybody,” said Brownlee.

Brownlee is an advocate of gun ownership, but he's also a stickler for firearms being handled and used correctly.

“The safe handling of guns and the proper way to handle guns to proper permitting that is premiere in our country. What we stress here at our club and in our country you need to obey the laws that were set forth and there wouldn't be any problems,” said Brownlee.

While the ownership and usage of guns can be a divisive topic, law enforcement officials say the key is to get educated on gun safety and be a smart gun owner.

“My position is and it will always be, we've got to use our heads when it comes to guns,” said Chief Papania.

For more information on Mississippi's gun laws click here

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