Attorney General Jim Hood acknowledged that much vagueness still exists in the new gun law, such as what defines a non-sensitive public place.
Photo by Trip Burns
When a new law goes into effect on July 1, it's going to feel like the Wild West in Mississippi. Not only because the law permits individuals to carry guns and other weapons in plain view and without a permit but also because the law is so vague that the courts will likely be barraged with lawsuits over its nuances.
"It'll be pretty tricky for cops on the street," Attorney General Jim Hood said to reporters Thursday afternoon, of the law's gray areas.
After lawmakers passed the law—House Bill 2—during the last session to clarify the existing law, Hood's office prepared an opinion at the request of law enforcement agencies.
Current state law requires a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but questions remained about the definition of "concealed." Hood's official opinion states: "If enough of the firearm is visible so that it is readily apparent to 'common observation,' then the firearm is not concealed."
However, the opinion also points out that while carrying a weapon in the open is legal, wielding or brandishing it in a threatening manner—except in self-defense—could result in a $500 fine, three months in jail or both.
The law is also clear that weapons can be prohibited in "sensitive" areas, such as schools. Private businesses could post signs or tell patrons verbally that carrying weapons is verboten and municipalities could prohibit open carry in county and city courthouses and other government buildings. Hood added that if a sheriff does not explicitly prohibit guns, open carry of firearms would remain legal.
Hood acknowledged that much vagueness still exists in the law, such as what defines a non-sensitive public place. For example, an indoor shopping mall might prohibit weapons while individual stores might not. Hood also said that it's unclear whether cities and communities would be able to declare property such as city halls sensitive places.
Courts will have to make determinations on case-by-case bases, Hood said.
"I don't see it as a major problem," Hood said of the new law.