Simmons changes mind on gun law
by Rory Doyle
Jul 03, 2013 | 3199 views | 0 0 comments | 122 122 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Confusion remains over the new "open carry" gun law that was set to kick in Monday, but held up after an injunction was issued Friday by Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd.

Attorney General Jim Hood said the law should be allowed to take effect, and he asked the Supreme Court on Monday to overturn the injunction.

However, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that it wouldn’t undo the order.

A panel of three justices said they made their decision for procedural reasons, and "the panel expresses no opinion respecting the merits of the matters pending before the circuit court."

Their ruling means that Kidd can hold a July 8 hearing he had already set, to decide whether to extend the injunction he handed down.

The law clarifies that citizens don't need any kind of state-issued permit to carry a gun that's not concealed — hence the term open carry. Concealed carriers will still be required to undergo necessary background checks to obtain their permits.

Cleveland Police Chief Buster Bingham remains concerned that the legislation could create a trigger-happy society.

"It's going to become law — I just don't see it not happening," said Bingham. "I strongly believe the language of the law needs to be tweaked so the confusing elements can be properly addressed."

One of Bingham's biggest apprehensions is that people who shouldn't be carrying will be carrying openly, strictly because they can.

"I'm a proponent of Second Amendment rights, so this is a difficult issue for me," he said. "But the issue becomes who is carrying the weapon. Look at the examples of the shootings in Colorado and Connecticut.

"Only responsible people are the ones that should be carrying guns and there should be certain limitations."

According to Bingham, law enforcement officials across that state fear that anyone 21-plus can walk into a gun shop, make a purchase without a background check and walk down the street with their openly holstered weapon.

"Under the new law, police officers will have more restrictions on carrying guns than citizens," said Bingham. "As the law is written now, people will be able to openly carry with no requirements."

Another of his concerns is that the general public is not trained in weapon retention.

"Most people don't see or encounter what a police officer does," he said. "I want to make sure each and every day that my officers go home at the end of a shift."

Mississippi Senator Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, has also decided to change his opinion on the matter after originally voting in support of the law.

Simmons was one of eight leaders from across the state that issued the petition to have the injunction filed.

"We are very hopeful we'll get the decision to stop the law from going into effect," said Simmons.

Simmons said the legislation, officially known as House Bill 2, initially set out to clarify the differences between concealed carry versus open carry, but ended up bringing more confusion than clarity.

"Law enforcement officials from across Mississippi are very concerned about this law," he said. "If our officials are so outspoken about this being in the books, I have to agree with their opinion.

"This has become a major situation that many of us on the legislature would love to have another opportunity to revisit and improve."

Simmons hopes Monday's hearing will bring news that the law will be tabled until January when the legislature is back in session.

HB 2's main sponsor, Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, said he hoped the Supreme Court would wipe away Kidd's ruling before July 8.

"A right unexercised is a right lost, and what we've seen over the last few weeks is a rediscovery of the right to bear arms in Mississippi," Gipson said in an Associated Press story.

Bingham does not appear as hopeful as Simmons that a long-term hold will soon be established.

"But I am hopeful that level heads will prevail and certain restrictions can be placed on 'open carry.' If people are going to carry, they must do it without being in violation of the law," said Bingham.