State’s high court asked to rule on gun law

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, says the firearms bill he authored and was passed during the 2013 session does not create any new rights for Mississippi gun owners, but only “affirms” the right that always has been in the state Constitution.
That is the right to carry a firearm in the open, Gipson said Monday.
Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood backed up Gipson’s claim in a motion where the attorney general is asking the state Supreme Court to allow the “open carry” law to go into effect. The law was supposed to be in effect Monday, but it was blocked late Friday by a Hinds County Circuit Court judge after Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler, Sheriff Tyrone Lewis and others filed a lawsuit to block the law’s enactment.
Hood filed the motion Monday with the Supreme Court. The group wanting to block the law’s enactment filed a response late Monday, saying a hearing is scheduled next week in Hinds County Circuit Court, thus it is too early for the Supreme Court to act.
Gipson said he wants the state’s highest court to weigh in on the controversy.
“What we are talking about here is nothing less than the rights of Mississippians,” Gipson said Monday during a news conference at the state Capitol.
In recent weeks, various law enforcement groups and others have expressed concern that the law would allow people to carry a gun in the open, creating chaos and putting people in danger. Some legislators said they did not know the impact of the bill when they voted for it.
Judge Winston Kidd on Friday blocked the law’s enactment because he said it was vague and could cause “irreparable harm.”
Gipson said Kidd’s ruling is wrong, in part because it is the 1890s Constitution, not the new law, that allows people to carry a gun without a permit as long as it is not concealed. A state-issued permit is needed to carry a concealed weapon.
The people filing the lawsuit disagree with Hood’s and Gipson’s interpretation of the Constitution.
In a statement, Hood said he filed the appeal because “it is my duty as the chief legal officer of this state to defend our state laws and our citizen’s constitutional rights. 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.”
Last month Hood issued an official opinion saying that local sheriffs and other officials could ban guns from county courthouses, schools, city halls and other “sensitive areas.” Plus, private businesses had the right to put up signs banning people from carrying a firearm on their property.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com