JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Despite widespread claims on social media that concealed carry permit holders could violate state law if they choose to wear a mask, a 3 On Your Side analysis finds only two states consider that illegal, and Mississippi isn’t one of them.
Those two states -- California and Illinois -- say being masked to “hide the person’s identity” are what make the procedure against the law, but Illinois law enforcement have already made statements saying that wearing a mask as mandated for public health reasons isn’t considered concealing one’s identity.
While none of the social media posts mentioned Mississippi specifically, many Mississippians shared them, causing confusion for many.
“It’s utterly and completely false. There is no law in Mississippi that puts one wearing a mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus at odds with their gun rights, with open carry, concealed carry or otherwise. So there’s really just utterly nothing to it,” said Professor Matt Steffey with the Mississippi College School of Law.
Steffey says Mississippi doesn’t even have anti-mask laws like some states, making it nearly impossible to prosecute someone for wearing a face covering.
“There is a federal law, a longstanding federal law that goes back to the 1800s that would forbid wearing a mask and going out onto the highway, or conspiring with others to commit certain crimes, but that’s criminal activity and that’s not protected anyway,” Steffey said.
Other news organizations have also debunked this social media claim in other states as well, an all-too-common practice in recent months because of the amount of misinformation shared online by thousands who don’t verify it first.
“There’s nothing easier to do on the internet than to trigger an avalanche of concern with false information,” Steffey said. [The gun claim] is just a phantom concern. And what it seeks to serve, rather, is internet discord, political discord, push back against public health measures perhaps by someone interested in injuring our public health.”
In many cases, it’s difficult to determine the origin of the posts because they’re sometimes screenshots of the original, without any identifying information.
However, this claim struck a chord with many gun rights advocates who have been more vocal recently about issues with those rights being taken away, with some saying the retiring of the state flag would eventually lead to that.
Steffey says this concealed carry claim is an extension of that fear.
“You know, I’ve lived in Mississippi for 30 years, and for 30 years, I’ve heard ‘someone is coming for our guns.’ But in that 30 years, I’ve been waiting for that person to arrive. This isn’t it. This isn’t it,” Steffey said.