JACKSON, Miss. – A Mississippi resident who receives a concealed carry permit and takes an eight-hour course can now carry a gun on college campuses, in bars and in courthouses.
As of this summer, Wyoming residents need no permits for concealed weapons. And in Indiana, private businesses must allow employees to keep firearms in their vehicles on company property.
Those and other recent changes on the state level represent a growing shift toward loosening state gun regulations, according to University of Chicago professor Jens Ludwig.
"When you look across the states, they are definitely moving in the direction of allowing concealed weapons in more locations," Ludwig says.
Supporters of the trend see it as a boost for gun rights. The National Rifle Association tracks the legislation online and has praised the new state laws.
Others say the trend could pose a threat to public safety.
"The gun lobby won't stop," says Brian Malte, of the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Malte described the way he sees the trend for the past 10 years: guns "anytime, any place and for anyone."
Proponents of the shift say they are just trying to give law-abiding citizens a way to protect themselves.
"Somebody who's disturbed or a crook — they're not going to care (if it's illegal to carry a gun in certain locations)," says Mississippi state Rep. Greg Snowden, a Republican who was one of three authors of an amendment that paved the way for the new policy here.
Alaska, Arizona and Vermont, like Wyoming, do not require permits for concealed guns, according to the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.
Lawmakers in Colorado and Utah made similar proposals, but those bills died during the states' most recent legislative sessions, legislative records show.
Florida this year passed a law that would prevent pediatricians from asking about guns in patients' homes, according to the NRA legislation tracker. A federal judge has temporarily blocked the measure. Doctors found in violation would have lost their medical licenses and faced fines of up to $10,000, according to the law that was passed.
University of Mississippi Police Chief Calvin Sellers says he supports the right to own firearms, but he still thinks Mississippi's newest policy could be a "bad law."
"I just don't like the idea of people having firearms in a classroom," he says.
There have been several high-profile campus shootings in recent years, most notably the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting that killed 33 people and injured 25, and the shooting there earlier this month in which a campus police officer was killed by a gunman who subsequently killed himself.
Aside from the high-profile cases, David Burnett, spokesman for a national student-led group that supports concealed carry laws for college campuses, says he thinks allowing students to carry guns can help in situations of sexual assault, armed robbery or other crimes.
"This isn't just about the rare college shooting incidents," he says.