Court delays open carry law

1STOCK COURT NEWS Gavel On FlagHOUSTON – Attorney General Jim Hood has filed a petition requesting the Supreme Court of Mississippi to do away with a restraining order issued by the Hinds County Circuit Court regulating the carrying of weapons.
The restraining order was filed late Friday and basically froze the enactment of the State’s new open carry law, known as House Bill 2.
“The Circuit Court’s order violated the separation of powers mandated between co-equal branches in Article 1 of the Constitution by usurping the authority of the Legislature to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons,” Hood said Tuesday in a prepared statement. “The order also infringes on the citizens’ right to bear arms recognized by Article 3, Section 12 of the Mississippi Constitution and the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The Hinds County Court’s decision and the AG’s response has delayed enactment of the state’s new open carry law until the state’s high court can make a ruling
“It is my duty as the chief legal officer of this state to defend our state laws and our citizen’s constitutional rights,” said Hood, a Chickasaw County native. “Our office continues to advise law enforcement officers and city officials as to the changes they will see with this new law. We will work through the issues as they arise, but this current issue is simply a matter of proper jurisdiction and basic constitutional rights.”
Officers with the AG’s office said they had no idea when the State Supreme Court might rule on the issue.
Closer to home, the legislation that would allow the public to carry a weapon on their hip has local law enforcement concerned over the details of the statute and how the public will respond to a deadly weapon in their presence.
House Bill 2 allows adult citizens to carry firearms openly and in holsters in public. The open carry law will not trump current property owners’ rights and other state laws that prohibit firearms, but it has local police and sheriff’s deputies concerned about how they will respond to calls where a weapon is visibly present.
Houston Police Chief Billy Voyles and Chickasaw County Chief Deputy James Meyers said they have been briefed on the new legislation and urge the community to call them with their concerns.
“I can’t really say how people are going to respond to someone walking around town with a gun on their hip,” said Voyles. “It won’t bother some people but in some situations it’s going to make people uncomfortable.”
Meyers said he has upheld the law his entire career and the new open carry law would be another law deputies will follow and work through.
“Safety is job one for anybody in law enforcement,” said Meyers. “Law enforcement has always been a dangerous profession and I do think this will make it more dangerous. I also think it has the potential to make things more dangerous for the public.”
Both Voyles and Meyers said police responding to any kind of public disturbance or domestic dispute will react differently if they arrive on the scene and spot someone wearing a weapon.
“You’ve got to get the drop on them,” said Voyles, a veteran police officer. “Securing the scene and protecting yourself and others from someone with a gun is serious.”
Meyers said deputies who stop a car on a rural road will approach with extra caution.
“You need to understand the officer’s concern,” said Meyers. “When we see a firearm, our antenna go up and we are trained to act in a different way.”
Meyers said he averages pulling his weapon from his holster about 10 times a year and knows that number will rise.
“I have no problem with guns or people who want to wear a gun,” said Meyers. “But with this new freedom comes new responsibility.”
Both Myers and Voyles said those who openly carry a weapon also need to know the law’s limits
House Bill 2 contains language that bans carrying firearms in establishments licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages.
An Attorney General’s opinion also points out they would not be allowed on educational property because that would violate Mississippi’s law banning weapons from schools.
The Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors has passed ordinances banning open carry in the courthouse.
And private property owners can post signs saying firearms are not allowed on their property.
“The signs need to be 10-feet from the door and highly visible,” said Voyles. “People who carry need to respect that business’ concern and behave accordingly.”
Both Voyles and Myers said there could be problems with the new law.
“If you own a store out in the county and someone comes walking in with a gun on their hip, what are you going to do?” said Myers. “If our deputies show up at a domestic dispute and there are family members wearing a gun, it’s cause for concern.”
Voyles said some people don’t need to carry guns.
“You are going to see more incidents of road rage where someone in a car gets cut off and someone pulls a gun and starts shooting,” said Voyles. “People are going to get hurt and people are going to get killed. There will be lawsuits and it will go before the courts and the Legislature will probably come back and do something to clean up the law, but during that time people are going to get hurt.”
One of the vaguest portions of the proposed law is citizens can’t “brandish a weapon,” or “display it in a threatening manner.”
Both Voyles and Myers said what is threatening to one person may not be threatening in another.
Both Voyles and Myers said while the law would allow it, guns probably should not be carried into churches, libraries or any place where children are present.
“People need to realize they can get in a lot of trouble if they pull a gun,” said Voyles. “And once that bullet starts down the barrel it is all over.”

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