By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press
JACKSON — A Hinds County circuit judge heard arguments Monday about whether to extend his temporary block on a Mississippi open-carry gun law.
Earlier this year, legislators passed and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 2, which says adults don’t need a state-issued permit to carry a gun that’s not concealed. The bill’s chief sponsor, Republican Rep. Andy Gipson of Braxton, says it simply reinforces the right to bear arms that’s in the Mississippi Constitution.
Judge Winston Kidd issued an order June 28 to temporarily block the bill from becoming law on its scheduled date, July 1. The block applies statewide. At the conclusion of the hearing Monday, Kidd extended his order until Friday. He said he will rule on or before that day.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Lisa Ross asked Kidd to find the law unconstitutionally vague because she said “men and women of common intelligence” could disagree about the effect of the law.
“If the right to bear arms is unlimited, it means you could carry a gun anywhere, anytime, for any reason,” Ross said. “We are a civilized people. That’s a Wild West mentality.”
She said a previously enacted state law prohibits guns on school and college campuses.
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith and others sued to block the measure. They said it could put law enforcement officers and others in danger if people are carrying guns with no training.
Assistant Attorney General Harold Pizzetta told the judge that the law makes clear that no state-issued permit is needed to openly carry a gun.
“What plaintiffs are attempting to do is make this a mess,” Pizzetta said in respond to arguments that the law would be confusing.
“It is clear you don’t need an open-carry permit to walk down the middle of the street and mind your own business,” he said.
Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, issued a nonbinding legal opinion June 13 that says that even when the law takes effect, sheriffs can still ban weapons in courthouses and people can still ban weapons on their own private property, including restaurants and stores. Hood also said guns are still banned on school and college campuses.
In many places across the state, people have been putting up signs recently to show that guns are not allowed.
The bill passed the House 111-8 on Jan. 29 and the Senate 51-0 on Feb. 27. Bryant signed it March 4.
Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, voted for the bill but said in late June that he regrets doing so. He said the bill was not thoroughly debated.
Gipson said the main purpose of House Bill 2 was to clarify the definition of a concealed weapon. He said it was filed in response to a 2012 opinion issued by Hood’s office, which said that a concealed weapon must be completely covered. The bill says the definition of concealed weapon does not include a pistol carried in a holster if it is wholly or partially visible.
A state-issued permit is still required to carry a concealed weapon. But lawmakers specified this year, in a separate bill, that information about permit holders is no longer public record.