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Attorney General appeals "open carry" injunction

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The hearing is being held in Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd's courtroom. The hearing is being held in Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd's courtroom.
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Attorney General Jim Hood has asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to lift a permanent injunction keeping the "open carry" law from going into effect, and to expedite his appeal.

Hood argues that the circuit court has "infringed on the constitutional authority of the legislature" by substituting its judgement for that of the legislature.

Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd issued a permanent injunction July 12, keeping the open carry law from going into effect. In his order, Judge Kidd called House Bill 2 "unconstitutionally vague and shall not take effect until such time as the Mississippi Legislature reviews, amends or clarifies House Bill 2 to accomplish its intended purpose.

Supporters of the bill stand by the fact that it's intent was never to change open carry laws in the state. They say that right is already given in the state Constitution.

Bill sponsor Sen. Giles Ward (R) said following the July 12 hearing, "All we attempted to do with HB 2 was clarify an attorney general's opinion that said that concealed carry needed clearing up and that's what we intended to do."

Hinds County Constable Jerry Moore was called as a witness.

He claims the law would change the way he does his job because he couldn't ask people why they're carrying a gun.

"I'm not going to tell you that in the area that I work in to have everybody carrying a gun doesn't scare me. It does," Moore said after the hearing.

The Mississippi Supreme Court refused to lift the temporary restraining order in an order July 2nd. The court denied the request for procedural reasons and not on the merits of the case.

The court didn't elaborate on the procedural reasons, but Mississippi College Law School professor Matt Steffey says it's not surprising the court let the TRO stand.

Steffey said it's likely the court is waiting until the Circuit Court has had a full hearing on the merits of the case and made a decision.

Attorney General Jim Hood filed the petition to the Supreme Court of Mississippi requesting that the court lift the restraining order.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Schuler Smith filed a response to the attorney general's petition July 1.

Smith filed a motion for temporary relief during an emergency hearing in Hinds County Circuit Court June 28.

Judge Winston Kidd blocked House Bill 2, which was set to take effect July 1. Kidd ruled the law is vague and an injunction is needed to stop irreparable harm. The temporary injunction was set to remain in effect until a July 8 hearing.

Hood claimed the circuit court violated the separation of powers "by usurping the authority of the legislature to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons." He also argued the order infringes on the citizens' right to bear arms.

House Bill 2 would allow people without permits to carry firearms as long as they are within sight. Concealed weapons still require a permit.

The Attorney General's filing also argues that the plaintiffs waited until the last minute to seek emergency judicial relief and gave the state only 30 minutes to prepare for its oral argument before the Circuit Court Friday.

Hood also says the plaintiffs "have no likelihood of success in proving House Bill 2 to be unconstitutional."

Representative Andy Gipson authored the bill and says it only defines the term concealed. And does not create any new rights.

 Gov. Phil Bryant's spokesman Mick Bullock released the following statement after the ruling June 28:

"It is disappointing a Hinds County Chancery Court would overrule a overwhelming decision of the Mississippi Legislature and the Governor."

During the emergency hearing, the state argued House Bill 2 is a valid law but the District Attorney disagreed.

"We do believe there are several issues that have to be explored to see whether or not the legislature was allowed to vote and regulate on anything other than concealed weapons," Smith said.

Hinds County Sheriff Tyrone Lewis said he is in support of the temporary restraining order.

"If it's unconstitutional for an individual to drink and drive, there should be some clarity about an individual drinking and carrying a loaded firearm," Lewis said.

State Senator John Horhn of Jackson voted for the bill when he believed the law would only be a clarification. The state argued it was, and Horhn says there was little discussion about open carry.

"The interpretation is that by putting that change in the law you allow open carry, and we don't believe that the constitution provides for open carry," Horhn said.

He believes the legislature should be allowed to clear up any confusion about the law.

"The governor is probably not going to want to address this issue in a special session. We would hope that the courts would delay any sort of a ruling on this matter until such time that we can go back in the legislature in the next session," Horhn said. 

Attorney Stephen Stamboulieh did consulting work on the legislation and believes the law is clear.

"Anti-gun politicians. That is the only answer. This is a side show. There is nothing vague about the definition of concealed," Stamboulieh said.

Stamboulieh likens paying to carry a concealed weapon to a poll tax, saying it's unfair to those who follow the law and want to exercise their rights.   

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