Hood seeks to toss ruling blocking open carry law

July 23, 2013 8:50:49 AM



JACKSON -- Attorney General Jim Hood asked the state Supreme Court Monday to declare that Mississippians can carry weapons openly in some public places. 


Hood's appeal argues justices should overturn a ruling by Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd, who declared the law unconstitutionally vague. 


Earlier this year, legislators passed and Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 2, which says adults don't need a permit to carry a gun that's not concealed. The open-carry law was supposed to go into effect July 1, but Kidd enjoined the law July 12, saying after hearing arguments that it was on hold until the Legislature can clarify it. 


Hood's office wrote that Kidd and those who sued to overturn the law were trying to use the courts to change a policy they disagree with. 


"Plaintiffs are merely disguising their policy disagreement in an ill-fitting constitutional doctrine," the appeal states. "The narrow statutory amendments in House Bill 2 are not vague merely because the Legislature has chosen not to adopt regulations thought by the plaintiffs to be beneficial." 


The appeal says lawmakers weren't required to enact additional restrictions on carrying guns and other weapons, saying property owners, business owners and governments still can make rules. Even if an open-carry law eventually takes effect, a previous law bans guns on school and college campuses. 


Hood's office also wrote that other state laws already bar convicted felons and others from having guns. 


The attorney general told the high court justices that law was not unconstitutionally vague, saying that the plaintiffs had "all but abandoned" their arguments over the vagueness of the term "concealed." 


"Plaintiffs cannot identify any clear language of the constitution which is in direct conflict with House Bill 2," the appeal states. 


Kidd had first blocked it temporarily on June 28, and the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal at that time, noting it usually doesn't hear appeals of temporary restraining orders. Hood argued that Kidd's work is "substantially complete" and that now is the time for the Supreme Court to step in. 


"Each day that House Bill 2 remains enjoined irreparably harms the state of Mississippi by denying the citizens the benefit of policies deemed to be in the best interest of the state by the Legislature," Hood's office wrote. "Each day the law remains enjoined threatens citizens with criminal arrest for actions not deemed to be a crime by the Legislature." 


Though state laws are typically challenged in Hinds County because it hosts state government, some law enforcement officers in the state's other 81 counties have said they are ignoring Kidd's ruling. Hood has said it's up to officers in other counties to decide how to react. 


The chief sponsor of the bill, Republican Rep. Andy Gipson of Braxton, said its main purpose was to clarify the definition of a concealed weapon. He said it was filed in response to a 2012 opinion issued by the attorney general's office, which said that a concealed weapon must be completely covered. The bill says the definition of concealed weapon does not include a pistol carried in a holster if it is wholly or partially visible.