July 11, 2013 10:31:33 AM
JACKSON -- Gov. Phil Bryant said Wednesday he's confident Mississippi's open-carry gun law will eventually take effect, even if a dispute about it goes all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, legislators passed and Bryant signed House Bill 2, which says adults don't need a permit to carry a gun that's not concealed.
The measure was supposed to become law July 1, but Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd temporarily blocked it June 28 after the local district attorney and some constables sued the state.
Kidd heard arguments about the case Monday and said he will decide by Friday whether to remove that hold. If Kidd extends his hold or further blocks the law by finding that it's unconstitutionally vague, state officials could appeal his decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
"I think it's going to go to the Supreme Court," Bryant said Wednesday. "I think the Supreme Court's going to uphold the Legislature and House Bill 2."
Bryant spoke about the gun measure at the Department of Public Safety headquarters, after he appeared with DPS officials at a news conference about prescription drug abuse.
"I don't think a judge in a particular county ought to be able to overrule the Legislature," Bryant said of the gun measure. "I'm not particularly singling out that judge, but if you can go to a particular county and get a judge to say, 'I'm going to hold an injunction against that law,' then couldn't you do it for every law that you disagree with?"
Lawsuits against state officials, or against state government as a whole, are filed in Hinds County because it is the home of Jackson, the seat of state government. In 2004, the state Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit filed against the attorney general must be filed in Hinds County because the official's office is there.
Opponents of the open-carry gun law say it has caused confusion about where people may carry guns that aren't concealed. They also say it could put law enforcement officers in danger if people with no training are carrying guns.
Republican Bryant, like many supporters of the law, said it restates the right to bear arms that's in the Mississippi Constitution.
Even if the open-carry law takes effect, a previous law bans guns on school and college campuses.
Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, is defending the open-carry law in court. Hood issued a nonbinding legal opinion June 13 that says guns can still be banned in courthouses and other public buildings. At many places, including the Capitol, officials have posted signs to show that weapons are prohibited.
Bryant said he has no argument with guns being banned in government buildings.
"Open carry has to do with your sense of being protected, your belief that you might be in a situation where you would need a firearm," Bryant said. "You're not going to be threatened in the Mississippi Legislature. You're not going to be threatened with bodily harm in the Highway Patrol, in the Department of Public Safety building, or in other government buildings. So, your sense of protection, which is what that law is all about, is totally different in an area that's very secure."
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