Forrest County, Hattiesburg face lawsuit for firearm signs

Forrest County, Hattiesburg face lawsuit for firearm signs

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg and Forrest County face a lawsuit filed by a Covington County man who says firearm signs on government buildings do not fully comply with Mississippi Code.

"I think they have somewhat attempted to comply, but they need to read the actual statute and read what the language is," said Rick Ward, who filed the suit after the governments did not comply with his complaints filed in August.

Signs on government buildings that ban firearms vary around Hattiesburg and Forrest County. Some only have signs that ban weapons during public meetings, and others say only certain carriers under Code are allowed to carry firearms or weapons.

After Ward filed the complaint against the city and county, they had 30 days to fix the sign's language. When that time passed and it was still not up to statute, Ward filed a lawsuit.

"Either get the signs with the correct verbiage or not have any signs at all," he said, referencing recent legislation in House Bills 2 and 314.

Ward said there are five different versions of signs that should be posted in public spaces. When court proceedings are underway, firearms and weapons are not allowed except by law enforcement unless the judge authorizes otherwise. In city and county buildings, anyone that has a permit or enhanced endorsement can carry, including open carry by adult non-felons. However, in law enforcement buildings or "places of nuisance" only law enforcement or other authorized officials are allowed to carry firearms.

Ward said his concern is making sure bodies of government are consistent across the state in order to align with state statute.

"So when one person leaves one area of the state, they can go to another area of the state and know what they can and can't do," he explained.

Ward has filed seven similar lawsuits in Mississippi, and his Oxford attorney has filed 27.

Forrest County board attorney David Miller said the county has changed their signs to comply with the law, and they are waiting on final approval from the attorney general. Hattiesburg city attorney Charles Lawrence was unable to be reached for comment.