JACKSON — People who want to block Mississippi’s open-carry gun law say the state Supreme Court shouldn’t kill their effort.
However, Attorney General Jim Hood says the law should be allowed to take effect. He asked the Supreme Court yesterday to overturn an injunction issued Friday by Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd.
The law clarifies that people in Mississippi don’t need any kind of state-issued permit to carry a gun that’s not concealed.
Saying the law was overly vague, Kidd blocked it from taking effect yesterday, as scheduled. He set a July 8 hearing to decide whether to extend his order.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Supreme Court would let Kidd’s injunction stand. Justice Michael Randolph told Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith and others who challenged the law to file papers Monday to support their case, as the challenge rapidly developed.
In his appeal of Kidd’s ruling, Hood argues it violates the right to bear arms and the Legislature’s right to regulate concealed weapons.
The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, reiterated yesterday that the law only clarifies what’s in Section 12 of the Mississippi Constitution.
“House Bill 2 is nothing new when it comes to your right, the citizens’ rights, to keep and bear arms in Mississippi,” Gipson said in a news conference at the Capitol. “That’s been the law of the land in Mississippi not since July 1, but since 1890 and even earlier.”
Some sheriffs and police chiefs, however, have said they fear people could become trigger-happy and hurt civilians or law enforcement officers. Gipson said police chiefs and sheriffs need to accept the changes, saying Kidd’s ruling was “judicial activism” that overstepped his powers and that the lawsuit was an attempt to criminalize guns.
“A right unexercised is a right lost, and what we’ve seen over the last few weeks is a rediscovery of the right to bear arms in Mississippi,” Gipson said.
At least one person originally named in the suit, Hinds County Constable Jon Lewis, appeared at Gipson’s news conference Monday to support him. Lewis said his name was added to the lawsuit without his consent.
Gipson said he had worked with Hood, a Democrat, to draft the appeal over the weekend.
“When Jim Hood and Andy Gipson agree on something, you know something is up,” Gipson said. Republicans in 2012 trimmed Hood’s powers to hire outside lawyers in an effort that carried heavy partisan overtones.
Though Kidd set a July 8 hearing on the matter, Gipson said he hoped the Supreme Court would wipe away Kidd’s ruling before that hearing.
Hood said the plaintiffs in the case made no argument that the law is unconstitutional. Instead, he argued, they only offered fuzzy policy statements, “none of which represent a legal sufficient basis for the judiciary to overturn the will and judgment of the Legislature.”
The plaintiffs, though, said it it’s too early for the Supreme Court to get involved, noting that the judge had ordered the parties to brief the issue rapidly, and that a temporary restraining order usually runs out within 10 days.
“While the state urges that the legal issue has already been decided in the case, nothing of the sort has happened,” wrote Lisa Ross, Smith’s attorney, in her reply to Hood.
Hood said the plaintiffs filed their complaint nearly four months after the law was signed by the governor. Hood said his office had effectively been ambushed, receiving only 30 minutes to review the complaint before the hearing before Kidd.
Ross wrote that the plaintiffs had filed in plenty of time, and had actually done Hood a courtesy by notifying him in time to appear at the initial hearing. Many times, defendants don’t learn about a lawsuit until after a temporary restraining order is issued.
“The plaintiffs filed this suit on the eve of the law’s operative effect in order to stop its unnecessary harm to the public good,” Ross wrote. “This was proper, timely and warranted under the circumstances.”
Hood had issued a nonbinding legal opinion June 13 saying guns would still be banned on school and college campuses, and that law-enforcement officers could ban the open carry of guns in courthouses and other public buildings. Hood also said people would still be able to ban weapons on private property.