JACKSON – Mississippians have the right to openly carry a gun, and other weapons, under a ruling released Thursday by the state Supreme Court.
The nine-member state Supreme Court, without a dissenting opinion, overturned a lower court ruling that blocked the enactment of legislation passed earlier this year allowing Mississippians to carry guns in plain sight with no permit.
The law was blocked earlier this summer by Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd, who ruled it “unconstitutionally vague” and that it would create havoc for law enforcement and the community.
But Justice Randy Grant Pierce, who wrote the opinion for the state’s highest court, said the circuit judge “erred” in blocking the enactment of the law.
Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, the author of the legislation, has maintained that the 1890s Mississippi Constitution, not his bill, gives Mississippians the right to openly carry a weapon. The Constitution, he said, gives the Legislature the authority to regulate concealed carry, but not the authority to regulate open carry.
Still, he conceded that, though the language in the Constitution allows the open carry of weapons with no permit, the issue had never been decided by the courts.
Gipson’s bill dealt primarily with concealed carry issues but in doing so clarified that anyone had the right to open carry.
Kidd blocked enactment of the law in late June after law enforcement, primarily from Hinds County, filed a lawsuit. After Kidd’s ruling, Attorney General Jim Hood filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. He was joined by various groups, including the National Rifle Association.
“I appreciate what the Supreme Court did in expeditiously bringing this issue to a conclusion,” Hood said Thursday afternoon from his Jackson office. “They could have drawn it out … but they took the bulls by the horns.”
Hood said, “This decision will help our law enforcement officers understand what the rules are.”
Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, who was among the group trying to block the law, said the high court ruling “was not unexpected,” but was disappointing. He said the court did not address the issues brought in the lawsuit to block the law.
“No way is this in the best interest of Mississippi,” Horhn said of the ruling.
He said he would try to pass legislation requiring people to obtain a permit to openly carry a firearm.
Horhn said he is considering whether to try to gather enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot for voters to decide. He also urged local governments to pass laws banning the open carry of weapons.
Hood has said local governments can ban weapons from certain public spaces, such as courthouses and city halls.
Gipson said Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling “is a victory for the people and also the rule of law.”