Guns in school conversation resurfaces after Mississippi Board of Education vote

(WLBT)
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 8:48 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The State Department of Education’s Thursday vote regarding guns in schools is making headlines. However, it turns out it doesn’t actually change anything for how districts operate, and there have been legal questions about the issue for years now.

You may not have realized it, but with the right training and permit, it was already legal to carry a gun in a Mississippi school. So, the Board of Education says it’s just trying to update its policies to match state law.

“So, the enhanced carry statutes authorize individuals who have the proper certification to carry weapons in certain areas that are enumerated in statutes that includes elementary and secondary school facilities,” explained Mississippi Department of Education General Counsel Erin Meyer.

Still, that law didn’t clear up all the questions on whether school employees could carry at school if they had the permit. An Attorney General’s opinion was requested in 2013. It said it’s up to the school districts but ultimately said they can. Mississippi College School of Law professor Matt Steffey points this out.

“There’s absolute confusion with firearms laws. They appear in numerous places around the code,” said Steffey. “They were not enacted with what, at least at first glance, looks like the utmost clarity or simplicity. They seem to give up on one thing what they take away on the other end. So it’s a minefield. It’s a matter of considerable complexity, with schools or many other contexts.”

It seems that even the legislature thinks the allowances may need more of a framework, including issues like legal protections for those who choose to carry. As recently as 2018, there was a debate about allowing teachers to be armed.

“I certainly am not opposed to clarifying legislation if we need to do that to make it abundantly clear to our school personnel and to our parents out in the state who wish to have, you know, obviously a safe environment for their children to attend school,” said Senator Joey Fillingane. “I think it’s pretty clear that we’ve already provided that avenue.”

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