Bryant, Lawmakers, NRA Want to Join Gun Lawsuit | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Bryant, Lawmakers, NRA Want to Join Gun Lawsuit

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A posse of state officials and gun advocates has asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to let them file briefs in support of the state's open-carry law.

The court had not ruled Tuesday on the requests by Gov. Phil Bryant, about 80 lawmakers, the National Rifle Association and others. Their motions included arguments supporting the law.

A brief has not yet been filed with the high court by those who challenged the open-carry law, including Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.

Earlier this month, Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd declared the law unconstitutionally vague. Attorney General Jim Hood asked the Supreme Court on July 22 to overturn Kidd's ruling.

Bryant said Tuesday that the law "clearly reflects the constitutional right of every Mississippian" to bear arms.

"Obviously, I think the local court has no jurisdiction or should not have jurisdiction over a state law. Not being critical of that judge, but it's just my opinion," Bryant said after speaking at a Nissan groundbreaking event in Canton.

Earlier this year, legislators passed and 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 issued an injunction 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.

Many cities and counties across the state have adopted local ordinances that bar openly carried weapons from public buildings and facilities, including parks and playgrounds.

In his brief, Bryant said other states also permit the open carrying of weapons.

"The existence and experience of these numerous other 'open carry states' is significant because plaintiffs' challenge to House Bill 2 is based almost entirely on their alarmist claims that disaster will follow if the bill is allowed to take effect.

"In any context, such unsubstantiated assertions are a wholly inadequate basis for infringing upon citizens' fundamental constitutional rights or disregarding the results of the legislative process. Such claims certainly cannot carry plaintiffs' heavy burden that House Bill 2 is unconstitutional given that they are directly contradicted by the actual experience of numerous sister states," Bryant's attorney said in the brief.

The NRA argued the right to open carry in Mississippi was not affected by House Bill 2, and the circuit court's attempt "to prevent 'chaos' by enjoining it fails to recognize that open carrying in Mississippi has and will continue in its absence.

"The concerns raised by the circuit court are wholly unfounded and are easily dispelled by a review of both state and federal law," the NRA said.

Arguments from the lawmakers generally followed the same lines. They argued the circuit court had infringed on the constitutional authority of the Legislature to enact laws and determine what constitutes a crime in Mississippi.

"House Bill 2 was necessary to prevent citizens who had met all the statutory requirements and who had been permitted by the state to carry a concealed weapon from being arrested if their concealed weapon was to be accidentally observed by someone," the lawmakers said in a news release.

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