Some Mississippi state-owned parks ban guns despite open-carry law

“Don’t take your guns to town,” a mother warns her son in a song by Johnny Cash.

A move by the Mississippi state-owned Pat Harrison Waterway District, which manages several parks in the Pascagoula River basin, builds on that theme.

Don’t take your guns to our park, either.

Allen Wright is parks director for the Waterway District. The district’s board of directors, he says, has maintained a no-gun policy for several years now.

“Right now, it’s policy that weapons aren’t allowed in the parks,” Wright said. “To allow someone to carry one on their hip and walk around the park with it, no, that’s just a recipe for disaster, in my opinion.”

Senate Bill 2862, signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in 2010, changed Mississippi law to allow people to carry guns in parks. The law removed the prohibition in Mississippi Code pertaining to guns in parks, except in the case of political rallies, athletic events not involving firearms or concerts. House Bill 2, passed in 2013 and upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court, allowed gun owners to legally carry their weapons in the open with a few restrictions.

State Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, said the Pat Harrison Waterway District isn't complying with state law, which doesn't include parks as one of the protected areas -- such as courthouses, police stations and jails -- where open and concealed carry of firearms aren't allowed. He said state law, which allows anyone older than 18 to carry a concealed weapon in their car or truck, trumps any restriction by the district board.

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