‘Open carry’ law flawed; based on faulty assumption 7/19/2013

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 18, 2013

‘Open carry’ law flawed; based on faulty assumption

“No firearms allowed except the Editor’s”—Sign on the front door of my newspaper.
ROLLING FORK—It is a pretty basic principle of logic: If your assumptions aren’t very good, chances are your conclusions won’t be, either.

House Bill 2, commonly, if not quite correctly called Mississippi’s new “open carry” gun law, was quite rightly ruled unconstitutionally vague Friday by a Hinds County circuit judge. The law had been scheduled to go into effect July 1, but the judge issued an injunction against its taking effect until the Legislature can readdress it in January.

Now, the sole purpose of that law, according to both its author and proponents, was to clarify the seemingly straight forward word “concealed” to allow all the state’s citizens to openly carry their pistols “in a sheath, belt holster or shoulder holster  that is wholly or partially visible.” This, they said was necessary because while the state could regulate the carrying of concealed weapons, (requiring permits for same) its citizens have always possessed the inalienable right to openly carry pistols on their persons that was guaranteed in Mississippi’s constitution.

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And that, Judge Winston L. Kidd said, was a faulty assumption.

The sole basis for the contention that Mississippians have the right to openly carry a weapon which cannot be abridged by the Legislature, stems from Article 3, Section 12 of the Mississippi Constitution, which reads: “The right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person or property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called into question, but  the legislature may regulate or forbid carrying concealed weapons.”
However, in a not always present and hence refreshing display of judicial common sense, Judge Kidd ruled the constitution’s words are consistent with their definitions.

“To keep and bear arms in defense of home, person or property,” the judge said, “means exactly what it says.”  What it does not say, he ruled, is that everybody and his Uncle Ned have the right to walk  around all day and all night packing iron. “The defendant (the State) has not cited any specific section of the constitution which provides for ‘open carry.’ They have not done so because it does not exist.”

Oops. All the folks who had run out and bought themselves holsters (sales of such reportedly have skyrocketed) are going to have to wait a while before they can strap them on and feel…what? Safer?

A lot of other folks are breathing easier, though. Some of the biggest critics of the law and its implications were law enforcement agencies and units of local government, many of which had scrambled to enact ordinances against the carrying of weapons on and in public properties.
The contentions of its supporters, which include the lawmakers who passed it and the governor who signed it notwithstanding, House Bill 2 would have done far more than redefine “concealed.” As Judge Kidd wrote in his opinion, it would “create confusion and chaos with respect to the enforcement of gun laws here in this state.”

The law sets forth neither who can openly carry guns in holsters nor where they can carry them. If it was truly the intent of the Legislature for every Tom, Dick and Harry in Mississippi to strap on their six guns and go anywhere and everywhere, then that is one mighty compelling reason to send a heap of legislators home.

Not that there weren’t  a good many other reasons already.

Bad laws lead to lots of bad things and this law, which was badly flawed, will at least now not prove to have been fatally so.

(Ray Mosby is an award-winning columnist who publishes The Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.)