February 9, 2018 10:45:41 AM
JACKSON -- A Mississippi lawmaker who held up an unloaded semi-automatic pistol during a debate said he was trying to make a point about the hypocrisy of gun laws that allow firearms in most places but restrict them in the Capitol.
Democratic Rep. Charles Young of Meridian held his gun over his head Thursday on the House floor. He also held up his state-issued enhanced concealed carry gun permit.
Young describes himself as a Second Amendment supporter and said he was trying to point out that legislators live under rules that restrict firearms in the state Capitol while they legalize the widespread possession of guns at places like schools and sports venues.
Young said he would not feel safe if he knew people were carrying guns in the House chamber. At his own request, he was escorted from the chamber for displaying the gun.
He said he was specifically questioning a rule of the Mississippi House and Senate, which says only law enforcement officers may have a firearm inside the state Capitol, unless a majority of legislators grant a person permission to carry.
Young displayed his gun a day after the House passed House Bill 1083, which would void rules that limit where people can carry guns on public property in Mississippi, including college campuses.
"Yesterday's debate included dialogue about whether or not people could bring weapons into the Capitol and there were specific questions as to whether or not people could bring weapons into the (House) chamber or gallery," Young told reporters later Thursday. "The chairman represented that if you had an enhanced carry permit that you could under existing law."
The chairman was Republican Rep. Andy Gipson, who leads both the House Judiciary B Committee and the House Ethics Committee.
Gipson, a Republican from Braxton, sharply criticized the way Young displayed the gun Thursday in the House chamber full of lawmakers, pages, reporters and other spectators.
"We had people in the gallery. He was pointing it up high. ... As chairman of the House Ethics Committee, I think it's worth consideration of whether that was brandishing in violation of the law, threatening to the public," Gipson said.
A Mississippi law enacted in 2011 lets people carry guns almost anywhere on public property after taking a training course and getting an enhanced concealed carry license.
However, universities have interpreted the law to mean they can define public spaces, and have mostly excluded sports venues, dormitories, classrooms. Judges and counties have also reacted negatively to allowing people to carry guns everywhere except an active courtroom. Some judges still enforce bans on guns anywhere in a courthouse.
Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey sent a letter Wednesday saying the conference opposes guns at sports venues.
The bill that the House passed Thursday would let people file lawsuits if colleges or other public places ban guns for people with concealed-carry permits.
Young also said Thursday that he has concerns about legislators voiding rules that ban guns in courthouses. His sister is a county court judge, and he said she has heard cases that include domestic violence.
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