Legislators: Open carry controversy should have been avoided

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    After Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd’s ruling on Friday to extend his injunction on Mississippi’s open-carry gun law, the battle is likely to continue with Attorney General Jim Hood filing an appeal with the Supreme Court.

     Kidd’s initial injunction on House Bill 2 on June 28 and subsequent continuance on Friday came after legislators passed the bill earlier this year allowing adults to openly carry an un-concealed gun without a permit.

     The Hinds County judge has asked legislators to clarify the wording in the bill calling it, “unconstitutionally vague” and stating in his ruling that, “a reasonable person reading the bill can not discern what the law allows and what it prohibits.”

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     Although they have expressed differing opinions on Kidd’s ruling, legislators from both sides of the aisle seem to be in agreement that the battle over the bill has become unnecessarily drawn out and has morphed into a political platform for gun rights issues.

     District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto, a Democrat, voted for the bill when it passed in the House 111-8 but said in an interview Saturday that he can understand Kidd’s ruling.

     “The wording in the legislation is vague,” he said. “All of this came about because we simply wanted to clear this issue about concealed weapons, but it has created more problems than there ever was.”

     Moak continued, “This has turned into a political issue when it never should have been dredged up. It was nothing but a tweaking and rewording of a current statute.”

     “It’s now costing us thousands of dollars,” Moak continued. “We should all be more conscientious about the legislation we push and the cost of litigation we have found ourselves in.”

     District 39 Sen. Sally Doty of Brookhaven, a Republican, said she disagrees with Kidd’s injunction and is confident it will be overruled by the Supreme Court, but she agreed with Moak’s analysis of the needless political overtones that have come into play.

     “I really think this is an issue that has been subject to spin from both sides and has now caused a lot of controversy in our state,” Doty said in an interview Tuesday. “I did not think this would be controversial, it’s a small issue that has been made into a larger one.”

     District 92 Rep. Becky Currie of Brookhaven, also a Republican, said in an interview Tuesday that she does not agree with Kidd’s argument that the legislation is “unconstitutionally vague,” pointing out that the reason for its passage ironically was to clarify current statutes.

     “We really wanted to make sure there wasn’t a gray area that someone like Judge Kidd would misunderstand,” Curie said. “We made it very clear, the reason we went back was to take those gray areas away.”

            “If [Kidd] wants to be a legislator, he needs to run for that office,” she continued. “You don’t legislate from the bench you uphold the law.”