Mississippi’s hate and gun laws have significant gaps that allow people to keep and access firearms, including assault weapons, after they have been convicted of violent hate crimes.
Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in Mississippi
|Violence with Severe Bodily Injury||Violence with Bodily Injury||Other Crimes Involving Intentional Use of Force||Threats with Deadly Weapons|
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
|Federal Law||Very limited or no access||Some access||Significant access||Some access|
|State Law||Very limited or no access||Some access||Significant access||Some access|
Mississippi law provides for extended prison sentences (up to double the original sentence) when it is proven that a person committed a crime because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or gender.1 (Disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity are not included as protected categories).2
Like federal law,3 Mississippi generally prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony.4However, Mississippi does not prohibit people convicted of violent misdemeanors from accessing firearms for any period of time, and also does not make misdemeanors punishable by a term long enough to trigger federal firearm restrictions.5
As a result, people convicted of violent hate crimes are only prohibited from accessing firearms in Mississippi, under state and federal law, if they have been convicted of felonies. The state generally classifies violent crimes as felonies if they involve infliction of serious bodily injury, bodily injury with a deadly weapon,6 or stalking with the use or display of a deadly weapon.7
However, people convicted of violent hate-motivated misdemeanors remain eligible to access firearms, under both state and federal law, including crimes involving intentional infliction of bodily injury,8 use of force to intimidate,9 brandishing a firearm in a threatening manner,10 and most other credible threats of violence.11
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- Miss. Code Ann. §§ 99-19-301 – 99-19-307.
- Recent proposals to expand the statute to encompass crimes motivated by the victim’s disability, sexual orientation and/or gender identity was not enacted. 2019 MS S.B. 2163 and 2019 MS H.B. 1494.
- Federal law generally prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by more than one year in prison or a state law misdemeanor offense punishable by more than two years. 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).
- Miss. Code Ann. § 97-37-5; 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B). Under Mississippi law, a “felony” is any criminal offense punishable by death or confinement in the state penitentiary, including statutes that authorize punishment in either a county jail or the state penitentiary. Miss. Code Ann § 1-3-11; Anthony v. State, 349 So.2d 1066 (Miss. 1977).
- Federal law applies to individuals convicted of state law misdemeanors punishable by more than two years in prison, 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B), but Mississippi does not make hate crime misdemeanors punishable by more than two years.
- Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-7 (felony “Aggravated assault”); Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-59 (“Mayhem”); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 508.020 (felony “Assault in the second degree”); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 508.010 (felony “Assault in the first degree”).
- Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-107(2)(b) (felony “Aggravated stalking”).
- Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-7(1) (misdemeanor “Simple assault”).
- Miss. Code Ann. § 97-37-19.
- See, e.g., Miss. Code Ann. §§ 97-3-85 (misdemeanor “Threats and intimidation; by letter or notice”); 97-3-107 (misdemeanor “Stalking”); 97-29-45(1)(b) (“Obscene electronic communications” with intent to terrify, intimidate or harass, and threatening physical harm).