By Terri Ferguson Smith and Brian Livingston
The Meridian Star
In response to the state's new open-carry gun law, which is being challenged in the court system, the Meridian City Council unanimously passed a weapons ban on Tuesday. The ordinance prohibits openly carried weapons in City Hall, the Meridian Law Enforcement Center, all fire stations, all municipal offices, city parks, and playgrounds. It makes exceptions for public roads, streets and sidewalks.
Weapons included in the ban are handguns, pistols, rifles, shotguns, stun guns, knives and, according to the ordinance, "any other item of any kind or nature that could or may be used as a weapon …"
Police Chief James Lee said he fully supports the council's action.
"It is to clarify to the citizens of Meridian where they can and where they cannot carry firearms," Lee said. "We need to be able to protect the people of this city and in doing so, we need to rely on our city council for wise judgment and leadership in the right direction."
Michael Goggans, city attorney for Meridian, clarified Friday morning this ban does not address concealed carry permitted citizens. He did, however, refer to state statutes that do address where citizens can and cannot possess weapons.
According to Section 45-9-101 which addresses concealed carry permitted citizens, weapons are prohibited from, among other places, all law enforcement stations, detention facilities, any courthouse or courtroom, polling locations, and any meeting place of the governing body of any governmental entity.
The statute goes on to say that weapons, whether openly carried or in possession of someone with a concealed carry permit, are prohibited in any location where a sign is displayed stating that no weapons are allowed.
"In order to make this clear to everyone in regards to weapons on municipal property, the council members may have to go back and revisit this issue," Goggans said.
The ordinance maps out the reasoning behind the ban stating in many of these locations, emotions can run high which could lead to escalated incidents.
"Business is often transacted where unpopular decisions are made and emotions tend to be charged," the ordinance states. "The possession of weapons on such municipal properties is in direct contradiction to the sensitive nature of these areas and invites an escalation of conflict."
The ordinance goes on to say that across the nation properties such as those designated as municipal properties have become sites of wanton violence where disgruntled people have vented their anger through killing and wounding those who frequent said places.
Violations are considered misdemeanor crimes, according to Goggans who said the penalty for violating the ban is a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months.
Lauderdale County recently adopted a similar weapons ban. The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved requests by Sheriff Billy Sollie to prohibit firearms at the Raymond P. Davis Annex Building, known as the county annex; the Lauderdale County Courthouse, and the Lauderdale County Juvenile Center, which houses the county youth court.