JACKSON – The enactment of a law that supporters say only “clarifies” the rights of Mississippians to openly carry a weapon has been blocked by Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd.
Kidd extended an earlier ruling Friday, saying the law “is unconstitutionally vague and shall not take effect until such time as the Mississippi Legislature reviews, amends or clarifies” it.
Supporters of the new law, passed during the 2013 session, says it only clarifies what already is stated in the Constitution – that Mississippi is an open carry state for guns and other weapons.
But Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, other Hinds County law enforcement and some legislators filed a lawsuit to block the enactment of the law. Kidd temporarily blocked its scheduled July 1 enactment in late June and on Monday heard additional arguments on the issue before making his Friday afternoon ruling.
Kidd said open carry is not a constitutional right and that the new law would create chaos.
“While an individual clearly has the right to bear arms, that right must have limitations in order to protect the public, and moreover, in order to live in a civilized society,” Kidd wrote.
Attorney General Jim Hood and supporters of the new law are expected to appeal Kidd’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.
In a statement late Friday, Hood said, “We are in the process of reviewing the judge’s order. At this stage, we are likely to ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to take a look at this case….
“It remains the duty of this office to defend our state laws and their constitutionality.”
Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, the lead author of the legislation, maintains that under the state’s 1890 Constitution the Legislature can place regulations on concealed weapons carry, but not on open carry. The original intent of the legislation that was blocked Friday by Kidd was to better define what is designated as a concealed weapon, but Gipson added a small section “to clarify” that Mississippi is an open carry state. That section led to Kidd’s Friday ruling.
Gipson has maintained that when Kidd’s ruling is appealed to the Supreme Court it will be overturned because of the Constitution, which he says already gives Mississippians the right to openly carry a weapon.
In his ruling, Kidd cited the example of “five young men walking down a busy street with each man carrying a different weapon,” such as a pistol, a machete and an automatic firearm.
He said that would “raise concerns,” but in that situation if the law is enacted “what, if anything can law enforcement officers do. Reasonable law-abiding citizens should not be subjected to this type of behavior. I am confident our Legislature did not intend for this bill to subject law-abiding citizens to this type of fear.”
State Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said he hopes the attorney general will wait for the Legislature to clarify the law instead of appealing Kidd’s decision to the Supreme Court.
Earlier this week, Gov. Phil Bryant, a proponent of the legislation, expressed frustration that a judge in one county could block a law statewide. During Monday’s hearing in Kidd’s court, there was testimony that a few counties were not adhering to Kidd’s original temporary restraining order blocking the law.