January 31, 2014 10:28:19 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi cities and counties would be banned from buying and destroying guns, under a proposal lawmakers are considering.
House Bill 314 says weapons purchased in buy-back programs would have to be put up for public auction rather than destroyed. Although buy-back programs are not common in Mississippi, they're held in some parts of the country to reduce the number of weapons in crime-ridden areas.
The bill passed the Judiciary B Committee on Thursday and moves to the full House for more debate.
At the beginning of the committee meeting, committee Chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, pointed out to members that a representative of National Rifle Association was on hand to watch the discussion. Although it's common for a wide variety of interest groups to send representatives to the Capitol, it's rare for a committee chairman to introduce one to fellow lawmakers during a meeting.
The bill would ban any state government official or employee from confiscating any legally held weapon or ammunition if the governor declares martial law.
Rep. Adrienne Wooten, D-Jackson, said she's never heard of martial law being imposed in Mississippi.
Gipson said he hasn't, either, but he wants to make sure guns aren't taken if that ever happens.
"If it's so bad that martial law has to be declared, people ought to be able to defend themselves," Gipson said.
The bill says no public housing authority in the state may restrict or ban tenants from owning firearms.
It also says cities and counties cannot enact local laws that would block the carrying of a concealed weapon by any person who has a state-issued concealed carry permit. In December, Attorney General Jim Hood issued a nonbinding legal opinion that said gun owners who hold enhanced concealed-carry permits can take their weapons to places like churches, voting precincts and even inside passenger terminals of airports, even if there are signs posted to expressly prohibit guns. Getting an enhanced permit requires firearms training.
Wooten said after mass shootings in parts of the U.S., many parts of the bill bother her.
"You're giving them the ability to act like wild, wild West," she said.