By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Attorney General Jim Hood says the ruling last week by a Hinds County circuit judge blocking the enactment of a law clarifying Mississippi as a state where people can openly carry a weapon doesn’t apply outside the judge’s Hinds County jurisdiction.
“I do not believe that the injunction would prevent someone outside Hinds County, who was openly carrying a weapon, from using the statute as a defense,” Hood said in a statement. “In other words, the judge’s decision would only prevent Hinds County residents from availing themselves of the defenses contained in the new law.”
Still, the Democratic attorney general said “due to all of the confusion caused by this injunction,” he hopes the state Supreme Court will agree to his request that it consider the issue “and end this matter.”
On Friday, Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd blocked the enactment of the open carry law approved by the 2013 Legislature because he said it was vague and would create chaos for law enforcement and the general public.
State Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, who was among a handful of legislators who along with Hinds County law enforcement officials and others sued to block the law, said Friday it is his understanding that Kidd’s ruling does apply statewide.
Sheriffs in both DeSoto and Tate counties in northwest Mississippi have said the open carry law is in effect despite the judge’s ruling.
Hood said that technically a judge’s ruling only applies in his or her district. “However, in such a case where the Court has enjoined the state from enforcing a statute, the state is prevented from enforcing the statute statewide,” he said. “In this particular case, the statute is not an enforcement statute. It is simply a statute that clarified when a weapon is considered to be concealed under our criminal law.”
The issue is confusing because the law clarifies the regulations on concealed carry while at the same time affirming anyone who can legally purchase a weapon has the authority to carry it openly with no permit.
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 maintains, gives the Legislature the authority to regulate concealed carry, but not the authority to regulate open carry.
Gipson’s bill deals primarily with concealed carry issues but in doing so clarifies that anyone had the right to open carry.
Gipson said, “The Court believes its order applies statewide. Whether it does or not is irrelevant because in the interim it is having a chilling effect on individual constitutional rights to keep and bear arms. Were a law-abiding citizen arrested for merely exercising the right to keep and bear arms for self-protection, I think that could give rise to a constitutional violation.”
Chickasaw County Sheriff Jimmy Simmons, said he is under the impression the court ruling applied statewide, but in the meantime, he is telling businesses they can put up signs to ban weapons on their property.
“Anybody after all the killings in schools with guns, guns don’t kill people, but people with guns in their hands do, would want to put guns in everybody’s hands…that doesn’t make good sense,” he said.
Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards said his office also has advised some businesses to put up signs banning weapons, and that signs have been installed in many county buildings, including the courthouse and the jail.
He said, as he understands the law, a person carrying a weapon in a business banning weapons, could be charged with trespassing.