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Gun law discussion prompts heated debate amongst Ocean Springs aldermen, mayor

By Warren Kulo | The Mississippi Press | July 18, 2013


Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran
File Photo/Gulflive.com

While most of the board of aldermen agreed that such a ban would likely be needed, some felt the city was jumping the gun since the law hasn't taken effect and there are still questions to be answered.



Ocean Springs Alderman Jerry Dalgo
File Photo/Gulflive.com 

A discussion of the issue during Thursday's board meeting prompted, at times, heated debate, particularly between Moran and Ward 5 alderman Jerry Dalgo.

"This is way too soon," Dalgo said. "It's still being debated and appealed --- there's still so much confusion about this."

House Bill 2, which clarifies what defines a concealed weapon and the requirements to obtain a concealed permit, remains in limbo after Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd placed a permanent injunction on the law. It's Kidd's ruling Hood is appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Moran said state statute allows a municipality to place a ban on weapons in public facilities. City Attorney John Edwards, however, said a group of municipal attorneys is researching that issue, as well as the ramifications of the new law, should it take effect.

Hood has said two U.S. Supreme Court decisions have specified guns can be banned on education property and in government buildings.

"The terminology they use is 'sensitive places,'" Hood told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.Alderman Greg Denyer agreed with Dalgo's assessment that the city was acting too fast, noting the cost of having signs made and posted throughout the city.

"We could spend thousands of dollars to put these signs up and then find out they're not worded right," Denyer said.

"Eventually, we will have to address this issue," said Ward 2 alderman Matt McDonnell. "But I don't think we're able to act on this tonight."

Moran was undeterred, saying the issue was a matter of public safety and the city's duty to protect it's citizens. She noted how angry parents often become at youth sporting events.

"You want them packing a pistol at the ballgames?" she asked.

Dalgo asked the mayor why she had never brought this issue to the board before if it was such a grave matter of public safety.

"Because July 1 a new open carry law went into effect," Moran said.

"You're wrong," Dalgo replied. "You're dead wrong. You don't even know the law. That bill clarified what is a concealed weapon."

"How would you feel if someone came in here with a gun?" Moran asked Dalgo.

"I personally would have no problem with it," he responded.

Moran then posed the same question to Edwards, asking what the city could do if someone came into City Hall with a gun.

"I'd rather not get into what-ifs," Edwards said, adding "We don't need to be a test case."

"Connie, I think ultimately you'll get agreement from this board," McDonnell said, "but right now there are too many unanswered questions."

The board finally agreed to allow Edwards to continue to research the issue and, once legal clarification is obtained, to bring to the board a draft of a gun ordinance for consideration.