Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith spoke out at the Mississippi Capitol today against an open carry law going into effect July 1. Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Sen. Kenneth Wayne Jones, D-Canton, displayed a semi-automatic weapon at the June 27 press conference.
Photo by Trip Burns
Hinds County District Attorney Robert S. Smith said this morning that he has not ruled out seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent a new law from going into effect that will permit Mississippians to openly carry firearms.
As a result of a change passed during this year's regular legislative session, individuals will be able to carry weapons in plain view without a permit starting July 1. Mississippians will still need a permit to carry concealed weapons, however.
Smith joined Mississippi lawmakers, members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, at a press conference this morning where they announced their intention to challenge the new law. Smith said his office is in talks with state officials to come up with an alternative to the open-carry law.
The district attorney also called the law confusing for both citizens and law enforcement officers.
"It's difficult to determine who is a threat, and (who) isn't a threat," Smith said.
"This law shouldn't be on the books in Mississippi," Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said.
State Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, who is also a defense attorney, said the law could initiate so-called "Terry stops" in which police can stop and question citizens. The term originated from a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Terry v. Ohio, where the court held that police could briefly detain someone who they reasonably suspect may be involved in criminal activity. Such suspicion falls short of the police burden for making an immediate arrest. A simple traffic stop could be a Terry stop, for example.
Citizens stopped for openly carrying guns do not necessarily have to submit to police questioning; however, the law is unclear whether a person's failure to answer officers' questions provides probable cause for a more invasive search or an arrest.
Sen. Sollie Norwood, D-Jackson, fears that the law will put more young people into contact with the police and could increase the number of arrests. He has had informal conversation with Jackson Mayor-elect Chokwe Lumumba about his concerns.
"Folks are scared what it means for society," Norwood said.