The definitive Mississippi resource for firearm and other weapon laws; what is, and is not, allowed with respect to Mississippi gun laws and self-defense.
Nature and Source of Right
The Mississippi Constitution, like the United States Constitution, acknowledges every citizen's right to keep and bear arms. "Arms" is commonly accepted to mean firearms (which is the primary weapon discussed in this paper), but the actual definition would include most any implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury. Unlike the United States Constitution, the Mississippi Constitution expressly reserves in the legislature the right to "regulate or forbid" the carrying of concealed weapons.
Registration, Background Checks, Licensing, Locks, and Buy-Backs
Mississippi has no owner gun registration requirements except for silencers/suppressors. It is a state crime for any person to solicit, persuade, encourage, or entice a licensed dealer or private individual to transfer a firearm or ammunition in violation of state or federal law. It is also a crime to provide false information. Counties and municipalities are prohibited from participating in gun buy-back programs unless the collected are sold to a FFL. Subject to federal background checks from licensed firearm dealers, no records are required to be kept regarding any transactions by private individuals. This is not to say that such information should not be kept, only that it is not required. Mississippi has no licensing requirements but does provide for a license to carry a concealed pistol (discussed more thoroughly infra). No license is required to purchase or own a firearm. Mississippi has no requirement that owners employ gun locks.
Mississippi has no waiting periods on the purchase of firearms. Firearms purchased from a licensed dealer must first be approved under the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System required by Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993.
It is unlawful to sell, give or loan a "deadly weapon" to a person under the age of eighteen. Additionally, a parent who allows a child under eighteen to own or carry concealed a deadly weapon may be charged with a misdemeanor. Likewise, it is generally illegal for a person under eighteen to have a "handgun" in his possession. A number of exceptions apply. It is not a violation if the minor is: (1) attending hunter or firearm safety courses; (2) practicing or target shooting; (3) competing or practicing for a non-profit organization's performance; (4) hunting with a valid license; (5) traveling with an unloaded handgun for an approved activity; (6) on land which is under the control of an adult who gives the youth permission to have the handgun; or (7) using the firearm in lawful self-defense. Attention is drawn to the distinction between "deadly weapons" and "handgun" as used in these two statutes. The term "deadly weapon" is discussed in depth in the section on unlicensed carry of a firearm.
In The Workplace
While there seems to be no statutory limitation on a business owner's right to prohibit possession of weapons within the business' building, unless possession is limited by other law, an employer (public or private) may not prevent employees from bringing firearms in locked, privately-owned vehicles in the parking lot, unless general public access to the lot is limited by a gate, security station or other means. An employer is immune from civil liability for damages which result from firearms permitted by this law.
"Educational property" is precisely defined and includes almost all public or private primary and secondary schools, including colleges. Generally, it is felony for any person to possess or carry firearms or explosives on educational property, or to encourage anyone under eighteen to do so. It is a misdemeanor to carry an air rifle, knife or other "sharp-pointed or edged instrument" except for unaltered nail files, food utensils or tools used for food preparation, instruction or maintenance, or to encourage anyone under eighteen to do so. It is legal for a non-student to possess a firearm on educational property so long as the firearm remains in a motor vehicle and is not displayed in a threatening manner. The prohibitions mentioned here do not apply to ceremonial or school programs, armed forces personnel and law enforcement, home schools, shooting event competitors, guards, mail carriers, or weapons not prohibited by section 97-37-1 (deadly weapons statute, discussed infra) in a parent's motor vehicle. Schools are required to post a copy of this Code section in public view. See infra about "campus carry" with an enhanced concealed carry license.
Mississippi has a stated prohibition on the possession, manufacture or sale of "silencers" (a/k/a suppressors). There is a notable exception, however, in that possession is permitted for such devices "authorized under federal law." Thus, with the proper federal tax stamp, suppressors are legal in Mississippi.
Mississippi law does not limit the length of a knife blade, nor address "assisted opening" devices. Rather, the only type of edged weapons which are expressly prohibited from being carrying concealed are dirks, bowie knives, butcher knives and switchblades. This prohibition is also set out again in a separate section pertaining to convicted felons. Note that there are special provisions for educational property, as discussed in the section entitled "Educational Property." In no statute found by the author is the carrying of a traditional pocket knife, e.g. not a bowie or dirk, prohibited, meaning that a pocketknife is not per se a "deadly weapon" whose concealed possession is prohibited. However, caution is suggested since "the fact that a weapon is not specifically mentioned in the [deadly weapon] statute does not automatically exclude it as a deadly weapon." There appear to be no cases in Mississippi addressing whether "assisted opening" knives are switchblades. Many other states have found such devices are not "switchblades" since manual activation of the blade, not a button located on the handle, is what initiates the opening process. However, Mississippi has defined a switchblade as "a knife containing a blade or blades which open automatically by the release of a spring or a similar contrivance." No reference to the location of the button is mentioned. Arguably, assisted opening knives would not fall into this classification since most employ torsion bars and not a traditional "spring;" the ambiguity is whether a torsion bar is a "similar contrivance". Although no exhaustive search has been conducted, it is known that certain jurisdictions have restrictions on the blade length which can lawfully be concealed.
Carry of a Deadly Weapon
A. Unlicensed Carry/Deadly Weapon Defined The law on carrying - The law on carrying a deadly weapon differs depending on whether the weapon is carried openly or concealed. "Concealed" is defined as "hidden or obscured from common observation." A firearm or other deadly weapon listed in section 97-37-1(1) carried on the person in a sheath, holster, or scabbard which is "wholly or partially visible" is not "concealed." Mississippi permits a person over the age of eighteen to carry, concealed or in plain view, a firearm or other "deadly weapon" in their home (including public housing), place of business, and vehicle, or while participating in or traveling to a "legitimate weapon-related sports activity" without a license. A person may also openly carry a deadly weapon in other locations without a license, however, they cannot carry on educational property, posted private property, or sensitive government locations. See the June 2012 Attorney General's opinion for further specifics. A citizen may also carry a concealed pistol or revolver in a purse, handbag, satchel, other similar bag or briefcase or fully enclosed case without a license. The term "deadly weapon" is not defined in the statute and may differ from the list of items that are otherwise prohibited from being carried concealed. A "deadly weapon" is widely accepted "as any object, article or means which, when used as a weapon under the existing circumstances is reasonably capable of producing or likely to produce death or serious bodily harm to a human being upon whom the object, article or means is used." Whether a stun gun is a deadly weapon seems to be unanswered. Upon arrest for carrying a concealed weapon, the weapon may be seized and upon conviction, forfeited. The Mississippi Code provides a number of affirmative defenses for a person charged with carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Perhaps the most important defense is that the accused was threatened and had a good reason to fear an attack was imminent. Additionally, a person may show he "was traveling and was not a tramp". The "travel" intended by this section is "travel of such distance as to take one beyond the circle of his friends and acquaintances." Other defenses are that the person was a law enforcement agent or mail carrier in the discharge of his duties, was in lawful pursuit of a felon, or was engaged in legitimate sports. Concealed weapon licenses are also available for a variety of guards and private security services. No license is required for a multitude of law enforcement related positions (e.g., investigators, judges, district attorneys, etc.) if the bearer has completed a weapons training course. Full time out-of-state law enforcement officers need no license either. B. Licensed Carry - Mississippi is a "shall issue" state, meaning that an applicant who meets all statutory criteria must be issued a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver or stun gun. Licenses are good for a period of five years and may be renewed through the mail every other renewal period. The cost is $80 plus an additional $32 for fingerprinting. Renewals cost $40 plus fingerprint charges. A license may be suspend upon arrest or formal charge of a crime which would disqualify such person from having a license until the case is resolved, and will be revoked if the licensee becomes disqualified under this or another provision. The basic criteria for issuance of concealed weapon license are: at least twelve months residency (subject to exceptions); at least twenty-one years of age (military members and veterans are eligible at eighteen); no physical infirmity which prevents the safe handling of a stun gun, pistol or revolver; no felony convictions; not a chronic or habitual user of controlled substances or alcoholic beverages to the extent that his normal faculties are impaired; desire for legal means to carry concealed weapon in defense; not mentally incompetent; no adjudication of guilt withheld or imposition of sentence suspended on any felony in the preceding three years; not a fugitive; and not disqualified from possession of weapon under federal law. Licensees must carry the license at all times as the weapon, and apparently also an additional form of identification. Licensees must notify the Department of Public Safety, in writing, within thirty days of any change in permanent address or loss of the license. Licensees' name, home address, telephone number, and other private information are exempt from disclosure under the Mississippi Public Records Act except upon court order. Any person having a concealed carry license issued under MISS. CODE ANN. section 45-9-101 "who has voluntarily completed an instructional course in the safe handling and use of firearms offered by an instructor certified by a nationally recognized organization that customarily offers firearms training, or by any other organization approved by the Department of Public Safety" or is a veteran who "completed law enforcement or combat training with pistols or other handguns" may obtain an endorsement to their license which significantly reduces the number of locations which are off limits, and even restricts the ability of public bodies to make public property under their control off limits.
Castle Doctrine and (No) Duty to Retreat
In 2006, Mississippi statutorily incorporated the so-called "Castle Doctrine." The law applies not only to a person's home, but also his occupied vehicle or in or around the immediate premises of his business/place of employment. Basically, the "Castle Doctrine" provides that a person can presume a criminal who unlawfully and forcefully enters his premises intends to kill, cause great bodily harm or commit a felony upon the occupant. This is a rebuttable presumption, meaning that the prosecution may still obtain a conviction if it can be shown the 'defender' was not in actual fear for his safety. The presumption does not apply if the injured party had a right to be there or was a law enforcement agent, or if the 'defender' is engaged in illegal activity at the time of the incident. Contrary to some depictions by the media, the Castle Doctrine does not sanction vigilante justice. Rather, the Castle Doctrine tilts the scale in favor of the homeowner, essentially giving him the benefit of the doubt whenever a criminal is killed breaking into an occupied home, vehicle or business. The Castle Doctrine also provides that the occupant, as long as he is not the initial aggressor or engaged in unlawful activity, and in a place he has a right to be, has no duty to retreat. Finally, the statute provides that a person acting in justifiable self-defense shall have similar presumptions in civil cases, is entitled to attorneys fees and expenses if the criminal unsuccessfully sues the homeowner, and is immune from civil suit if found "not guilty" in criminal proceeding.
Counties and municipalities are prohibited from passing "any ordinance that restricts or requires the possession, transportation, sale, transfer or ownership of firearms or ammunition or their components." However, this preemption is not absolute as counties and municipalities may still: (a) require, if authorized by other law, citizens to be armed "for personal or national defense, law enforcement, or another lawful purpose"; (b) prohibit the discharge of certain types of firearms or bow and arrow within their jurisdictional boundaries, subject to a number of exceptions; (c) enforce fire codes, zoning ordinances, or land-use regulations, so long as the regulations are not intended to be surreptitious gun laws; (d) regulate firearms during insurrection, riots and natural disasters for the public health and safety, so long as there is no restriction on the citizen's lawful possession of a firearm in his home, place of business or in transit to and from the home or place of business; (e) regulate more than twenty-five pounds of blackpowder or other explosives; (f) regulate firearms at public parks, meetings, political rallies, on educational grounds or at professional athletic events; or (g) regulate the receipt of firearms at pawnshops.
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