Papania: Open carry situation could have turned into 'violent misunderstanding'

Published: Jun. 22, 2015 at 7:21 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2015 at 8:25 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania held a press conference Monday afternoon to discuss a situation that had many Walmart shoppers terrified Sunday evening.

"That's not normal."

That's what Papania said about two men who went into Walmart, Winn Dixie and Krispy Kreme armed with a shotgun.

While openly carrying a firearm in Mississippi is legal, Papania said this situation could have turned into "a very violent misunderstanding."

According to authorities, the two men walked into the Walmart on Highway 49 around 8 p.m. Witnesses said the man holding the shotgun was actively loading and racking the firearm. Walmart does not have a policy about guns inside its stores.

"If I were in a situation where I'm in the store shopping with my family and I see an individual loading a 12 gauge, and racking it, I'm not coming to the conclusion this is good," said Papania. "While the actions of these two men are sanctioned by state laws, what they did negatively impacted our community."

Papania said his department's resources were stretched thin while officers and the SWAT team responded to this situation.

According to Papania, no one was threatened, no weapons were discharged, no one was shot and police officials and civilians responded to the situation appropriately.

Gulfport police will not release the names of the men, because they did not violate the law.

"If there was something I could have arrested these people for, I would," said Papania.

Papania pointed out a question he thinks people should ask themselves as we move forward with the gun laws conversation.

"Gun laws should be such that it provides us security. As we look at this fact pattern, do you feel safer?"

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