Thursday’s editorial gives you the facts and the arguments on the concealed carry legislation up for consideration in Columbia and encourages you to make up your own mind on the topic:
Bubbling slowly but steadily on the legislative stove this session has been the proposal to drastically expand the state’s concealed carry laws. One in 27 adults in South Carolina now has a concealed carry permit, and it’s a change that would have far-reaching effects in our state.
The bill (H. 3292) is currently in the House Judiciary Committee, where it has been since January, though it moved from a subcommittee to the full committee in February. Legislative watchers say there’s still a good chance the bill will move forward this session, although that likelihood diminishes with each passing day. Law enforcement agencies have been mostly against the idea, with the notable exception of the current director of the State Law Enforcement Division. Those for the change have largely been traditional gun rights advocates and firearms organizations.
Rather than tell you what we think, we encourage you to make up your own mind. Here are the facts and the arguments on both sides; decide for yourself what you think is best.
The bill at a glance
Would make it legal to carry concealed weapons without any permit.
Would add the overlay of criminal intent. Currently, you can be arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. The bill seeks to change that to carrying a concealed weapon “with the intent to use the weapon in furtherance of a crime.”
Would expand the places one can carry concealed weapons, allowing them in churches, hospitals and daycare facilities, which are now off limits, as well as in glove compartments or locked trunks on school property.
Would lower the possible penalty for mixing alcohol and guns from three years of prison to two years.
Would end the requirement that handgun retailers be licensed by the state.
For the changes
The director of the State Law Enforcement Division, Reggie Floyd, told the Post and Courier in February that allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed guns makes people feel safer and could deter an attack, and he has no problem with it.
“You’ve got to have a way to defend yourself,” said Lloyd, a former judge and U.S. attorney, noting his strong belief that women especially need to arm themselves against attacks.
Gun Owners of South Carolina, a statewide organization affiliated with the National Rifle Association, offered the following statement:
“We greatly favor the improvements that are offered to law-abiding citizens in the bill. We remain neutral on the permitless carry, but believe it is very workable. People seem to forget that laws only tend to regulate law-abiding citizens. Criminals do not allow laws to stand in their way.
“… It is not the position of the legislature to grant any rights to the citizens when these rights are provided for in the United States Constitution and the State Constitution. It should be their duty to protect and defend these rights.”
Republican Rep. Thad Viers of Myrtle Beach has been one of the driving forces behind the bill and wrote the amendment that was adopted and became the bill’s latest version. He had this to say in support of it:
“If you can legally own a gun you should be able to carry concealed. Criminals must be on the defensive. Law abiding citizens must be able to protect themselves against thugs who try to them harm. Training is great and I heavily recommend it, but you should not be required to have training to protect yourself.”
“… Carrying more places is about safety and protection and also convenience. Law abiding citizens should not have to check their rights at the door.”
Against the changes
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents more than 8,000 of the state’s law enforcement personnel, gave us this summary of their position:
“We oppose this bill because it will legally allow someone to carry a gun that has possibly never shot a gun, undergone a criminal background check, or received any type of gun training. It is important to note that the SCLEOA is not against the Second Amendment or gun rights. We simply believe it is critical that a person be able to demonstrate that he or she can properly handle a firearm and that he or she knows the law regarding the use, storage, and carrying of a firearm.
“We also oppose this bill because there is no requirement to carry any type of permit that states you can legally carry and/or possess a firearm. H. 3292, if passed in its current form, will make it easier for a citizen of South Carolina to carry a gun than to vote.”
Jimmy Mixson, the president of the state’s Fraternal Order of Police, offered this statement on the bill:
“The FOP believes that law abiding citizens should be involved and able to defend themselves. However, the FOP also believes that the proposals in H. 3292 have the potential to make citizens less safe as well as create difficulties for police officers. … It would seem prudent for a person carrying a weapon on public streets among other citizens to be able to safely operate the pistol.”
Mixson also took issue with the intent provision, saying that H. 3292 “merely prohibits a person [from carrying a handgun] with the ‘intent’ to use it unlawfully against another person. How is a police officer supposed to determine ‘intent’ or what is in a person’s mind?”
And former SLED chief Robert Stewart, who led the division from 1988 to 2007, told us enacting the proposed changes would endanger public safety and make the jobs of police officers more difficult and dangerous than they already are.
“If you get a driver’s license, at least you have to show that you can safely operate a motor vehicle, and you would think the same would apply if you want to carry a deadly weapon,” Stewart said.