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Local gun laws: State's lenient gun laws in question after Colo. shooting


Cary Chaffin, store manager at K&S Outdoors in Columbus, reaches for a handgun at his store on Highway 45 North. Chaffin says the industry has seen an increase in gun sales, since the shooting at a Colorado movie theater last week.

Cary Chaffin, store manager at K&S Outdoors in Columbus, reaches for a handgun at his store on Highway 45 North. Chaffin says the industry has seen an increase in gun sales, since the shooting at a Colorado movie theater last week. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff  Buy this photo.


Jeff Clark



In the wake of a mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were shot and killed during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" July 20, gun sales across the nation are on the rise.  


The Boston Herald on Saturday reported gun sales in Colorado alone had risen more than 25 percent over the past week compared to July 2011 figures. The Globe attributed the increase to consumers' safety concerns and fear that Congress will make gun purchases more difficult. 


Cary Chaffin is the store manager at K&S Outdoors in Columbus. The store has a federal firearms license to sell guns, both of the long rifle and handgun varieties, including semi-automatic weapons in both categories.  


"I can't say that we have seen an increase in gun purchases from this time last year, because we are a new store," Chaffin said. "But I can confirm that my suppliers and other gun dealers I do business with have said they have seen an increase in the purchase of guns since the Colorado shooting." 




Gun purchases 


The process to purchase a gun in Mississippi, Chaffin said, begins with age. A person 18 years or older may apply to purchase a rifle or "long gun' and those 21 and older may apply to purchase a handgun. 


"(The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) provides a background check form a person must fill out to purchase a gun," said Chaffin. "You must also present a valid photo ID. The form is for basic information, such as name, Social Security number and it also has a series of questions that must be completed, like 'Are you an illegal alien?' and 'Are you a convicted felon?'" I send it to the ATF and I will have an answer from them in about five minutes. This is for any gun we carry, including semi-automatics and handguns. There used to be a waiting period to purchase handguns, but those laws have changed." 


Chaffin said a fingerprint is not required to purchase a gun. Mississippi does not require a person to have a license or permit to own a gun nor does the gun have to be registered, once the ATF background check has been approved. 


Once a gun has been purchased, the buyer must apply for a permit if they wish to carry it. State law says Mississippi is a "shall-issue" state, meaning concealed carry permits must be issued to all qualified applicants. 


Permits are issued by the Mississippi Highway Patrol within 45 days. The permits are valid for eight years. Mississippi requires applicants to be a resident of the state for at least one year before receiving a carry permit. Applicants must be at least 21 to receive a permit to carry a gun. 


"If you want to carry a gun, you are going to have to go the Highway Patrol station in Starkville and fill out a permit request," Chaffin said. "They are going to fingerprint you and take a photo and keep it on file. They say it takes about six weeks, but you can usually get it sooner than that." 


Guns can also be purchased online, Chaffin said.  


"You can purchase a gun online, but it has to be delivered to a (Federal Firearms License) gun dealer," said Chaffin. "It's the same process -- the gun comes to the gun dealer and you have to have a background check approved by the ATF."  


Ammunition can also purchased online, but is not as regulated as guns and can be delivered to the purchaser's home, Chaffin said. 




Castle Doctrine 


The Castle Doctrine is a law sometimes associated with Mississippi's gun laws. The law, which was passed by the state legislature in 2006, is an extension to Mississippi Code 97-3-15, which defines justifiable homicide. Although it does not clearly mention guns in its language, the law made headlines nationwide when 28-year old George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. on Feb. 26. Martin was unarmed at the time of the shooting, which Zimmerman claimed was in self-defense. 


Questioned on new additions to gun laws in the state, Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, said the Castle Doctrine is "probably the biggest law passed in the past few years regarding gun laws in Mississippi." 


"The Castle Doctrine allows your house to be your castle and it allows you to defend your castle," said Chism. "It also says your car is an extension of your castle. It states you do not have to retreat if you are being attacked; you can defend your house, your car and yourself." 


District Attorney Forrest Allgood said the legislation does not allow someone to kill someone without justification or reason. 


"Justifiable homicide has always existed," Allgood said. "The legislature expanded this into another section, which embodies self defense if someone is breaking into your car, property or place of business. But for a death to be proved justifiable homicide, it must be proven that you believed the person had ability to do you great harm and you must believe it was eminent. It has created the presumption if you are in one of the places mentioned and you acted in fear of bodily harm it was justified, but that may be determined by a jury. You have to be in your house or you have to be in your car. You can't shoot someone for walking in your yard. It is likely you will go before a grand jury and they will determine if your action was justified or not." 




Gun control  


Chaffin said the national reaction to the Colorado shooting may make it harder for people to legally purchase guns. 


"I don't want my rights to own a gun infringed (upon)," said Chaffin. "I think the government is going to make it harder for people to purchase guns. All this is going to do is make it harder for the good people to get guns. If a criminal wants a gun, they will still get them."




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