JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said Wednesday that he wants the state to resist any presidential order that might restrict gun rights.
Republican Bryant made the call shortly before President Barack Obama issued 23 executive orders designed to curb gun violence.
"I am asking that you immediately pass legislation that would make any unconstitutional order by the President illegal to enforce in Mississippi by state or local law enforcement," Bryant wrote in a letter to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, who are also Republicans.
No such bills had been filed by Wednesday, and a Democratic lawmaker said it was "irresponsible" of Bryant to speak against Obama's efforts without knowing what the president was going to say.
"It seems to me we need to not disregard any reasonable efforts on the part of the president to help our law enforcement officers to protect our citizens," said Rep. Kevin Horan, D-Grenada.
Bryant said in the letter that he believes any gun-control executive order by Obama "infringes our constitutional right to keep and bear arms as never before in American history."
Mississippi resisted federal authority to enforce voting rights and desegregation during the civil rights era, but Bryant says there's no comparison now.
"We were going the other direction then. We were saying, 'We're standing against the federal government's authority to provide civil liberties,'" Bryant said in response to reporters' questions at the Capitol. "And what we're doing now is saying, 'We're standing against the federal government taking away our civil liberties.' There is a distance between the east and the west on this. And so any association with that, I believe, is baseless."
The president's directives include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.
But Obama also wants Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
Bryant, who started his career as a Hinds County deputy sheriff, said criminals will disregard any gun restrictions that are put into law.
"If they want a 30-round clip, they're going to get it out of Brazil or the Soviet Union," Bryant told reporters. "It's going to go on the black market. Self-protecting citizens won't have that right, but criminals will."
The Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s.
At a news conference later with about 30 Republicans and four Democrats from the House, Gunn said he and other legislative leaders will oppose any effort to limit gun ownership. Mississippi is a largely rural state, and people who live in remote areas might have to wait a long time for deputies to respond if someone breaks into their homes, he said.
"The only protection people like that have is the threat, the knowledge, that they may have a gun in that house," Gunn said. "That serves as a deterrent to anyone who may decide to perpetrate a crime against that individual: 'They may have a gun and I'm not going to go into that house.'"
Horan, who spent 14 years as a prosecutor in the Delta, said in a phone interview that he owns about 100 guns and hunts every chance he gets. But he said policy makers need to be willing to consider school safety measures, including investing state money in mental health care.
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