Mississippi: Judges have No Power to Ban Concealed Guns in Courthouse

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Mississippi: Judges have No Power to Ban Concealed Guns in Courthousec

U.S.A.  -(Ammoland.com)- In November of 2011, the Mississippi legislature restored the right to carry concealed weapons in most public buildings, including courthouses, but not courtrooms while a judicial proceeding was in process, to people with an enhanced concealed carry permit.


Some judges in Mississippi attempted to reverse the modest restoration of the right to bear arms. They banned the carry of concealed firearms within 200 feet of any door to any courtroom. In 2016, Rick Ward, a Second Amendment activist, filed a petition to the Supreme Court, complaining that the judges had overstepped their authority. On June 7, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Ward’s favor. From starkvilledailynews.com:

The court prohibited concealed carry within 200 feet of any door to any courtroom of Fourteenth Chancery District courthouses in Lowndes, Oktibbeha Clay, Noxubee, Chickasaw and Webster counties.

Ward, along with the state Attorney General Jim Hood and the National Rifle Association, argued that the order was invalid.

Following the court order, enhanced concealed-carry licensee Ricky Ward filed a petition to modify or dismiss the order. The chancellors then issued an order denying the petition and doubled down on their order blocking concealed carry permit holders from bringing guns into the courthouse.

Ward moved forward, though, and requested the Mississippi Supreme Court vacate the order as unconstitutional and in conflict with state law.

The state’s highest court agreed, calling the orders “unconstitutional on their face.”

The Supreme Court ruled the judges of the lower courts exceeded their authority  granted under the Mississippi Constitution.  From  courts.ms.gov:

A plain reading of these provisions in our Constitution renders the orders unconstitutional on their face, for “no set of circumstances exists under which the [orders] would be valid.” U.S. v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 745, 107 S. Ct. 2095, 2100, 95 L. Ed. 2d 697 (1987). “[T]he key to a successful facial challenge . . . is whether [the orders], as [they are] currently written, could never be constitutionally applied and valid.” Crook v. City of Madison, 168 So. 3d 930, 942 (Miss. 2015) (Coleman, J., dissenting) (emphasis in original). Applying this standard to the present case, the chancellors’ orders, as they currently are written, could never be constitutional. The Mississippi Constitution vests only the Legislature with the authority to regulate or forbid carrying concealed weapons. The orders at issue usurp that power.

On 20 June, 2018, three judges asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling from June 7th. From wtva.com:

Chancellors Dorothy Colom, Kenneth Burns and H. J. Davidson, Jr. filed a motion for reconsideration Wednesday with the state’s highest court.

They claim they should have the right under a separation of powers in the Constitution to issue a ruling.

The current Mississippi Constitution dates from 1890. The 1890 Constitution gave the legislature the authority to regulate the carry of concealed weapons. Prior to that date, the State of Mississippi had no such authority. From the Mississippi Constitution of 1817:

Sect. 23. Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defence of himself and of the state.

Here is the relevant section of the Constitution of 1890, where the Constitutional Convention creates the authority to regulate concealed, but not openly carried, weapons. From the Mississippi Constitution of 1890:

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 in question, but the legislature may regulate or forbid carrying concealed weapons.

In 2016, Mississippi became the 10th Constitutional Carry state. People in Mississippi are generally not required to have a permit in order to carry firearms, concealed or openly. Permits are still legally available. They are useful in situations such as those covered by the Supreme Court ruling above.

It remains to be seen if the three judges from the 14th Chancery Court District will prevail upon the Supreme Court to change a decision it made only two weeks ago.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

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About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.