By Jennifer Lenain, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd on Friday declared Mississippi’s open-carry gun law as “without question, unconstitutionally vague.”
Kidd has extended his hold on the law and sources say Attorney General Jim Hood is expected to appeal that decision to the State Supreme Court.
In Kidd’s order released Friday, he wrote, “This case has nothing to do with taking away a citizen’s right to lawfully carry a weapon. Citizens have always had the right to carry a weapon and that right will continue to exist... The proponents of House Bill 2’s contentions of ‘taking away gun rights’ are unfounded and do not exist.”
Gov. Phil Bryant’s spokesperson released a statement following Kidd’s ruling on Friday saying, “Gov. Bryant continues to believe that the Mississippi Constitution affirms the right of citizens to keep and bear arms as described in House Bill 2. This bill was passed overwhelmingly by the Mississippi Legislature, and it is disappointing that a judge could essentially overthrow the will of an entire elected body.”
The open-carry gun law was set to go into effect on July 1, but was quickly overturned Friday, June 28, by Kidd.
Kidd granted an injunction and held a hearing on July 8, where the injunction was further extended.
The law allows people in Mississippi to carry a gun that is not concealed without a state-issued permit.
Hood’s office issued an opinion prior to Friday’s ruling on House Bill 2 and noted that the law does not apply to people who carry a concealed weapon with a permit.
“The law is so vague,” District Attorney Hal Kittrell said in June. “The only direction we have is the Attorney General Hood’s opinion.”
Hood’s opinion defines concealed as, “hidden or obscured from common observation.”
That means, “if enough of the firearm is visible so that it is readily apparent to ‘common observation,’ then the firearm is not concealed,” as stated in Attorney General Hood’s opinion.
Local law enforcement is upholding the open carry gun law as it was intended until an official decision is issued by the state.
“We took the stance that we are not abiding by that judge’s ruling,” Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison said.
The Picayune Police Department is taking a similar stance. “We are going to uphold the open carry law until we hear different from the Attorney General or the state Supreme Court,” Chief Bryan Dawsey said.
“We are honoring what the lawmakers passed until otherwise notified,” Dawsey said.
Hood’s opinion states with regards to courthouses, “the sheriff is in charge of and responsible for the security of the courthouse.”
Allison has decided that all courthouses in the county will not permit any kind of firearm. “I have mixed emotions about it (open carry law),” Allison said.
Allison said he supports the right to bear arms, but he is “concerned with people carrying openly in public.
“I see where it may cause a lot of fear for citizens around the county,” he said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this story