The firearms policy at the Landers Center, the busy venue in Southaven that hosts concerts, sporting events and other events such as high school graduations, came into question at a recent meeting of the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors.
Resident Mark Dubois appeared before the Board of Supervisors to inform them that he was to attend a graduation exercise at the Landers Center this past May and would be carrying a firearm.
Dubois said he was informed that the Landers Center had a policy regarding individuals carrying weapons. Dubois told supervisors he had confirmed with Landers Center Executive Director Todd Mastry that Landers Center security would be checking for enhanced carry permits and the persons with enhanced carry permits would be required to sign a register, tell security where they would be sitting, and wear a red wristband.
In that May 21 meeting, Dubois asked supervisors if Mississippi law required all of those stipulations in order to carry a firearm inside the Landers Center. The Landers Center was originally funded with public tax dollars in 2000, with a portion of the tax levy being earmarked for maintenance and upkeep. The Landers Center is operated under the oversight of the DeSoto County Convention and Visitors Bureau Board.
Board of Supervisors President Mark Gardner stated the Landers Center is a public building, but the Board of Supervisors has no jurisdiction over it. He said the Board will be sure that the Landers Center and CVB Board are in compliance with state law, as they do with all public buildings in DeSoto County.
"They do have a board that runs that organization," Gardner said. "We'll get clarification on that. If any of our citizens want clarification on that get with the CVB."
Mastry said Wednesday that safety is the Landers Center's first priority.
"We're going to do everything we can to keep people safe and abide by the law," Mastry said. "We've gotten numerous Attorney General's Opinions. I absolutely believe from everything that we are doing that we are following the law."
As for the red wristbands that DuBois was going to be asked to wear, Mastry said it is a policy that Landers Center has used effectively.
"The firearms policy makes sure they have the proper permit," Mastry said. "We ask they wear a wristband on their firing arm as it identifies them as being allowed into our facility (with a firearm) and God forbid if something happened they could be identified."
Mastry said with so many incidents involving active shooters occurring across the United States such as the outdoor venue in Las Vegas and elsewhere, entertainment venues have to be extra cautious.
"It's something that every venue in the United States struggles with — if struggle is the right word," Mastry said. "The reality is there have been active shooters elsewhere. We want to make sure everyone is as safe as they can be and in accordance with the law."
Mastry said the whole discussion over insuring constitutional rights all the while protecting people's safety is an active one.
"If we have a client who rents our venue and puts on a concert, Mississippi law says they have control of what is going on," Mastry said. "They have the ability to allow guns or not to allow guns. Every private company who has rented our facility has said 'no guns' at their events."
Mastry said signs are posted to that effect at Landers Center.
For instance, at sporting events at Landers Center, no guns have been allowed on the premises at Memphis Hustle games.
What made the graduation ceremony different is that it involved a public entity such as a school district, according to Mastry.
The firearms debate at public venues is one that will certainly continue as constitutional rights collide with safety concerns. Balancing safety and individual constitutional rights is a balancing act, according to Mastry.
"It's a bit of a moving target," Mastry said.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com