Supervisors consider open carry ban

July 2, 2013 9:52:15 AM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


Lowndes County supervisors authorized attorney Tim Hudson to draft an order that would prohibit open carry weapons of any nature in county facilities Monday. 


State lawmakers passed a bill this year that redefined a concealed weapon and allows citizens to openly carry a firearm without a permit. A permit is still required to carry a concealed weapon.  


That legislation was blocked in an emergency hearing Friday by Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd in response to Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith's request. Kidd scheduled a hearing July 8 to consider further arguments on whether or not the injunction should be extended. 


Attorney General Jim Hood asked the Mississippi Supreme Court on Monday to overturn the injunction. 


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 Monday, as scheduled.  


It wasn't immediately clear whether the Supreme Court would let Kidd's injunction stand. Justice Michael Randolph told 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 Monday 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." 


Anticipating that the open carry law will ultimately stand, Lowndes County supervisors unanimously agreed to take steps toward having an ordinance in place keeping firearms off any county-owned property or building. 


Board president Harry Sanders said regardless of whether or not the open carry law comes into effect, county facilities should be protected from it. 


"I think we probably need to prohibit regular citizens without a concealed weapons permit to keep them from coming into county owned buildings," he said. "I think that's a prudent thing to do." 


Supervisor Jeff Smith agreed, citing possible safety issues. 


"I'm just concerned from a standpoint that we've got all these public facilities and John, Jane or Harry can walk in a building with a firearm and in any circumstance create a hazard for all the people working in those facilities," he said. 


Supervisors will have a draft on hand to be considered at their July 15 meeting. 


A version of the agenda for the Columbus City Council's meeting today at 5 p.m. also has an item regarding carrying weapons in their buildings. Councilman Kabir Karriem, who opposes open carry, placed the item on the agenda for discussion and said the city should follow the county's lead. 


"I think it's incumbent on us as far as referring to the mayor and city council to make sure we put mechanisms in place that protect people inside city-owned properties," Karriem said. "I'm hoping a resolution will be put in place like the county to bar people from weapons inside city owned facilities."

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.