MY LAST NERVE: Lawmakers Consider Constitutional Carry Legislation

February 7, 2014

Inside Insight

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constitutional carryA bill that would permit “constitutional carry” in South Carolina – allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons with or without a permit – was the subject of heated debate at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday. Here is what a few members of the subcommittee had to say:

John Scott (D- Richland): “[This] says to me that every young kid that’s 21 years of age, we’re gonna just arm them with guns and put them in the streets with no training. I don’t think sometimes we understand what we ask for. Out west behavior’s a little bit different in terms of what they do, but in some of these urban and suburban areas it’s a little bit different, and with that in mind I’m going to move to table your bill.”

Larry Martin (R- Pickens): “With this, Lord only knows how many less than law abiding citizens could legally carry under the Senator from Spartanburg’s bill. I can’t buy that and all the changes it’s gonna make, and for that reason I’d like to see this bill remain in committee.”

Lee Bright (R- Spartanburg): “We sit up in this ivory tower in the South Carolina Senate and decide who can and who cannot defend themselves. This bill plainly says if you’re a violent criminal, you can’t carry.”

Gerald Malloy (D- Darlington): “As we struggle with this issue – everybody has a legitimate side – the question is whether or not we really have this debate; because, if you don’t have a debate, then I don’t know that we ever resolve this issue…I hope that we will carry this over and give the folks the opportunity to continue talking about it if we’re ever going to get it to the floor”

Many members of the committee were concerned that the bill would do away with the Concealed Weapons Permit program in the state; others were concerned that convicted criminals would now be allowed to carry weapons. Here’s what the bill, as filed, would do:

Repeal the law prohibiting carrying a weapon without a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP).

Change the offense of unlawfully carrying a handgun to carrying a handgun with the intent to commit a crime.

Stipulate that a CWP is not required to legally carry a weapon in South Carolina. The CWP program would remain in place so that CWP holders who travel to states where reciprocity exists will not have additional difficulty.

Preserve the right of private employers to prohibit people from carrying a weapon on the premises of the business or workplace or while using any machinery, vehicle, or equipment owned or operated by the business.

Preserve the right of private employers, owners, or persons to restrict weapons on their premises if they have legally posted a sign stating the prohibition (for example, “No Weapons Allowed”).

Allow a variety of law enforcement officers to carry weapons anywhere in the state when carrying out their official duties.

The motion by Sen. Scott to table the bill failed on a 10-10 vote. Had that motion passed, the bill would effectively have been killed. Instead, the bill was carried over by a vote of 13-6. Generally, those voting against carrying over wanted to continue their current discussion in hopes of getting the bill to the floor where the rest of the Senate could debate the bill. With the motion to carry over having passed, the committee will have to have another meeting to further consider the bill before taking a vote on whether or not to pass it out of committee.

The bill was pre-filed in December 2012 for the current session. As of this writing, it has six sponsors. Even if it passes out of committee, it still has an uphill battle on the Senate’s more than 40-page calendar. If it passes the full Senate, it must cross over to the House by May 1 in order to be considered this year. If it doesn’t make it to the House by that deadline, it would take a vote of two-thirds of House members present and voting to waive the rule and consider the bill.