Open carry watchers still waiting on high court

Court NewsBy Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Both proponents and opponents of the law passed by the 2013 Legislature making it legal for Mississippians to openly carry a gun with no permit still are waiting on the state Supreme Court to weigh in on the controversy.

After Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd blocked the enactment of the law on July 12, state Attorney General Jim Hood quickly filed a motion with the Supreme Court asking it to take up the appeal in an expedited manner.

At the time, Hood said if the state’s highest court fast-tracked the issue it could be resolved within a month to give law enforcement clarification on whether the open carry of weapons in the state is allowed. If the appeal followed the Court’s normal process, it could be a year or more before the issue was settled, the Democratic attorney general said.

A search of the state Supreme Court’s website indicates that there has been a litany of motions filed by the parties interested in the law. The latest action on the issue occurred on Aug. 14 when a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court consisting of Chief Justice William Waller Jr. and James Kitchens of the Central District and Randy G. Pierce of the Southern District agreed to allow several groups to intervene in the case.

Three groups included Gov. Phil Bryant, various legislators, the National Rifle Association, the Magnolia Bar Association and others.

Jan Schaefer, a spokeswoman for Hood, said her office did not have any information on how quickly the court plans to proceed on the issue.

In a response to motions filed by law enforcement officials primarily from Hinds County, Kidd ruled the law “is unconstitutionally vague and shall not take effect until such time as the Mississippi Legislature reviews, amends or clarifies” it.

Kidd said its enactment would create chaos.

In his motion to the Supreme Court, Hood argued the law is not vague, but simply defines concealed carry, which requires a permit, and clarifies that open carry does not require a permit. The author of the bill, Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, maintains that the state’s 1890s Constitution always has allowed open carry with no permit.

Hood has maintained that law enforcement outside of Hinds County would not be bound by Kidd’s ruling, but said Supreme Court clarification to eliminate confusion is still needed.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com