One of the most controversial but incontrovertible rights of an American is the right to keep and bear arms. Many hold contrary opinions regarding this right, despite its enshrinement in the second amendment of the national constitution, but the Mississippi state constitution as adopted in 1890 goes even further than “shall not be infringed”….Article 3 Section 12 states “[t]he 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 in question, but the legislature may regulate or forbid carrying concealed weapons.”
In a nutshell, not only shall such rights not be infringed, as stated in the federal constitution, but shall not even be called in question! But it allows the caveat that concealed weapons may be dictated by the legislature. However, this is complicated elsewhere in the state code, where it restricts carrying, “concealed in whole or in part.” This is a contraction of terms, as the state of something being concealed is an all-or-nothing affair…now you see it, now you don’t.
This is where the law passed earlier this year, House Bill 2, comes into play. It amends this wording to say “concealed on or about one’s person,” which eliminates the clumsy wording of the original statute. It also states the following in a new clause:
(4) For the purposes of this section, “concealed” means hidden or obscured from common observation and shall not include any weapon listed in subsection (1) of this section, including, but not limited to, a loaded or unloaded pistol carried upon the person in a sheath, belt holster or shoulder holster that is wholly or partially visible, or carried upon the person in a scabbard or case for carrying the weapon that is wholly or partially visible.
Furthermore, it stipulates that a license to own and openly carry a firearm is not necessary. This is also consistent with existing law.
But a district attorney and circuit judge in Hinds County seem to believe they are above the law. According to a story filed by the Associated Press, “Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith requested that the law be blocked, and [Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston] Kidd granted the temporary injunction during an emergency hearing.” The reason being cited is that the new law is “vague”.
This is either deliberate misrepresentation or a testimony to superlative stupidity. This law blatantly amends what had to have been an intentionally poorly-worded statute to reflect the plain reading of the state constitution. That they view this as being “vague” is a crock of bull. What is more likely is that it’s a political maneuver meant to appeal to allies such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose attorney Jody Owens is quoted by the Clarion Ledger as having said, “the plaintiffs are trying to stop mayhem. We’re looking at a wild, wild West scenario.”
As far as I’m concerned, all three of these people should be reprimanded for judicial malpractice. First, they had six months since the passing of the bill and five since it was signed into law to file this lawsuit. But no! they waited until the Friday before it was to go into effect, giving the Attorney General office very short notice to present a case. This was specifically designed to pre-empt the law going into effect, which can cause some very interesting problems on Monday. Imagine people carrying openly, as they already have a right to do, being told they cannot do so despite the law having gotten so much publicity. You may automatically have people found in violation of the law regarding the statutory nature of concealment. All because some legal trolls had their way.
Second, and most insidiously, they essentially want a hearing to determine if the Constitution is unconstitutional. As the author of House Bill 2 and its staunchest defender, Representative Andy Gipson (R-Braxton) commented, “I never thought I’d live to see a lawsuit filed to say that the Constitution is unconstitutional.” All this law did was clarify a legal point, as laid out above. It is a constitutional right to carry, and an unquestioned one, at that. I’m hoping a higher court throws this whole thing out first thing Monday morning, but I won’t be holding my breath.
Thirdly, the concept that open carry will open the doors to the state becoming the wild west is a canard cooked up by breathless gun-grabbers. There are many other states with similar policies regarding open carry, and there hasn’t been an increase in gun violence; in fact, the opposite has occurred. The classic example is Kennesaw, GA, who began requiring every household to have a gun starting in 1982…residential burglary went down 89% immediately thereafter compared to the state-wide drop of 10.4%. There have been no wild west shootouts in the open carry states. It is an undeniable fact that those regions with the strictest gun laws have the most gun crimes, particularly murders. It’s ridiculous on its face.
Fourthly, and this may rankle some readers, but I couldn’t help but notice that the two officers of the court responsible for this are of the black persuasion, as are many in the district they serve. I bring this up because, here more than in most other places, politics is racial in nature. Given the figures regarding race, poverty, and crime; it is the black community in Mississippi who is most at-risk for gun violence and in need this legislation! For example, in 2006 I paid $127 for my concealed carry permit. It is now $132 for a permit to be processed and $82 every five years thereafter for renewal. Basic handgun training at a local range cost me $100. None of this counts the actual cost of the weapon or its ammunition. The point is that it’s not a trivial thing to people living paycheck to paycheck (or worse) to legally carry a gun for their own protection and that of those around without this law in place. And this doesn’t even broach the subject of how gun regulation originated with the purpose of suppressing racial minorities. In short, I hope the put-upon people of their district remind them of this in the next election.
Finally, while I’m sure there is trepidation on the part of some law enforcement officers, those I’ve been privileged to speak with actually prefer open carry. One even said he already assumed everyone he dealt with was armed, and carrying openly just makes it easier to keep an eye on it. So there’s that.
Basically, what it boils down to is this: certain people don’t trust the law-abiding, decent people of Mississippi to live up to the responsibility of openly carrying a firearm and would prefer to leave them to the mercies of the riff-raff who are best-served by politicians throwing unnecessary obstacles to civilian self-armament.