Harrison County courthouses adjusting to conceal carry decision

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Last week, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that judges can't restrict conceal carrying at courthouses. But that's not so easy to make happen in some courthouses - including those in Harrison County.

Right now, the process remains the same at the Harrison County courthouse in Gulfport. And the sign is clear: no guns allowed in the courtroom area. Period.

That makes Marvin Clifford angry.

"I'm concerned because I feel like my constitutional rights by the state of Mississippi are being violated by this sign that's over here behind us," he said. "We can't just pick and choose which laws we want to follow and which ones we don't."

Clifford has a concealed carry permit with an enhanced endorsement, and he wants to carry a gun while he carries on his business, especially in the courthouse.

"I want to have protection and have self-protection when I come to a place like this that is dangerous," Clifford said. "And per the constitution of the state of Mississippi, that is my right."

The enhanced concealed-carry license was created in 2011 that allowed those with the license to carry anywhere including courthouses.

And before the State Supreme Court ruling, some local judges had been writing their own orders preventing the practice.

Sheriff Troy Peterson does not like the idea of guns in the courthouse except on law enforcement and security officers.

"I believe in everybody's second amendment rights. I believe in the right to bear arms," he said. "I just don't believe that there's any common sense in bringing a gun into a courthouse with the anger and hostility that's already there."

Because the courthouses, he must secure, are more complex than standard one-room courthouses throughout the state, he said he needs time to sort it out.

"If the Supreme Court is telling me that I have to open up the second floor of the courtrooms for people to carry guns, then I'm going to abide by the law. But, I'm going to do it the best way I can for public safety," he said.

He said it won't be cheap for the additional scanners that will be needed and manpower to run them.

"This is going to be a huge, huge tax increase for a lot of the citizens in Harrison County," Peterson explained.

Harrison County Supervisor Kent Jones agreed it will be costly to accommodate.

"I'm not willing to say we're not willing to do that because we will," he said. "But it's just a change we have to go through that will allow you to carry a weapon into the courthouse."

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