On Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme court unanimously upheld House Bill 2, the state’s recently passed open carry law after a lower-court judge blocked it from taking effect on July 1.
On July 12 Hinds County Judge Winston Kidd extended his temporary injunction on the law, arguing that before the law could take effect the state Legislature had to address the alleged confusion the bill seemed to be causing amongst law enforcement.
“Law enforcement officials will be required to enforce a vague law which will result in either the law enforcement officer’s life being at risk or the general public’s life being at risk,” Kidd wrote in his ruling. “The court cannot identify any potential harm which might be caused to the state by granting the injunction.”
Critics of the law, those who filed for the injunction, claimed that the way concealed and open carry were defined was ambiguous.
Kidd agreed with that analysis but also took it one step further, saying that “House Bill 2 does more than define ‘concealed.’ It creates confusion and chaos with respect to the enforcement of gun laws here in this state.”
He added that “A reasonable person reading the bill can not discern what the law allows and what it prohibits.”
The Mississippi Supreme Court flat out rejected Kidd’s concerns.
“This court now finds that the circuit judge erred as a matter of law when he found House Bill 2 to be vague and, therefore, unconstitutional,” stated the ruling.
“He also erred when he stated that a ‘reasonable person reading the bill could not discern what the law allows and what it prohibits,” continued the ruling, which was signed by Justice Randy Pierce.
Rep. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton), the bill’s sponsor, was not at all surprised by the ruling, noting that the Constitution says what it says.
“When the lawsuit was first filed, I said I never seen a lawsuit filed over the constitutionality of a law in the Constitution,” Gipson told the Associated Press.
In the past, Gipson provided a more detailed explanation of how House Bill 2 fits within the framework of the Constitution and the state laws of Mississippi.
“If you carry a weapon concealed, you need a concealed carry permit. Otherwise, the Constitution of 1890 guarantees each citizen the right to keep and bear arms to defend himself/herself,” said Gipson.
“No change to the constitution here; just defining concealed for the first time,” he continued. “Until now, individual law enforcement or courts could fabricate a definition which resulted in an illogical infringement on constitutional rights.”
To reiterate, House Bill 2 simply states that a pistol carried in a holster that is either wholly or partially visible is not concealed carry. Thus, it’s considered open carry. If one is a law-abiding citizen, he/she can openly carry a firearm without a permit. If he/she wants to fully conceal a firearm, he/she needs a concealed carry license.
House Bill 2 cleared the state Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, e.g., the House passed it by a vote of 111-8 and the Senate 51-0.
Mississippi’s Gov. Phil Bryant, who enthusiastically backed the law, was thrilled that court saw it that way.
“I am very pleased that the court has agreed that House Bill 2 is consistent with the Constitution so that law will now take effect statewide,” Bryant said.
Bottom line: a big win for the law-abiding gun owners of Mississippi. Congrats! And remember whether you carry open or concealed, carry responsibly.