Gun policy divides candidate forum in Lowndes County

LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI)- What started out as a candidate forum in New Hope, ended up being two candidate forums in New Hope.

Candidates for Lowndes County offices were scheduled to meet this evening at the New Hope Community Center to speak to the public.

That meeting was planned to be indoors, however, organizers of the event asked on-duty Lowndes County Sheriff’s deputies to remove their weapons and leave them outside the building.

The deputies, including Sheriff Eddie Hawkins, refused.

This led to a disagreement that allegedly escalated and caused many candidates, including Sheriff Hawkins to hold a separate forum outside.

There are signs stating that no weapons are allowed in the community center but because its county property, on-duty deputies are still allowed to have their firearms on inside the building.

WCBI caught up with both the Sheriff and the organizers of the event.

“I’m not going to ask a citizen who has a right to carry a gun and possess a gun, legally, to disarm, and put his weapon away, and I’m not going to let anybody take a weapon away from one of my officers,” said Sheriff Eddie Hawkins.

WCBI asked the sheriff if he was made aware that he and his deputies had to remove their weapons before arrival.

“Not at all. This happened after we got here,” said Sheriff Hawkins.

“For all those officers to come in armed lined up against the wall; this is not a jail,” said Walter Shinn, forum organizer. “This is not a penitentiary. This is a forum for candidates that want to get their word out. Candidates that are running for office. We don’t need that type of distraction, and that’s all it was, clear and simple, just a distraction.”

There is another forum scheduled for Thursday evening at 7 PM.


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