Constitutional carry bill to be heard by state Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday

SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) – The state Senate Judiciary Committee is set to hear a bill today that would not require lawful gun owners in South Carolina to obtain a concealed weapons permit before carrying their weapon in a public place.

This bill has been in the state house for some time now, and consideration to make South Carolina a constitutional carry state has been debated for years, according to Sen. Greg Hembree.

This bill applies for people who are allowed to have firearms; that means it doesn't apply to those who aren't, such as convicted felons.

Currently, under South Carolina law, you're required to get a concealed weapons permit, or CWP. This requires someone who wants to carry a firearm to go through training and a background check before they are allowed to carry a concealed weapon.

Hembree said he sees both sides of this proposed bill that would get rid of the requirement to get a CWP.

"Well, to me, initially, I thought, ‘Well, my goodness, what a frightening thought this would be to have some guy strolling down the beach in the summer time with the tourists here with an AK47 strapped on his shoulder,’” Hembree said. “I mean, that's pretty unsettling to the people that just want to go out to the beach and have fun. But, on the other side of this, actually the majority of states have a law exactly like this. So, it's not like we're... we're not doing something way out there crazy. It sounds kind of crazy maybe, but it really isn’t compared to what other states have done."

At least a dozen states already have some form of constitutional carry law, according to published reports.

Seth Smith, a local member of the NRA and owner of Aynor Armory, said he used to live in Alaska where they have a constitutional carry laws. He said in areas where there are more animals and less people, those laws work fine, but for cities and heavily populated areas, he doesn't think it's a good idea.

Smith also said he sees where it would be constitutionally OK to have a law like the constitutional carry law, but CWP training helps to weed out the people who don't know very much about taking that test.

Patti Hilton, a member of Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said this bill puts everyone at risk in the community, calling it dangerous and irresponsible to not require any kind of background check or safety training.

"This is a hot issue for people about the second amendment, because the constitution does really grant that authority to people, so I understand the other side of the argument, but I'll tell you, I worry a little bit about our economy as a tourist economy,” said Hembree. “It makes me a little nervous if we allow people to just walk around the beach with 6 guns strapped to their hips which they could do."

Hembree said several things could happen today at the state house. There's likely to be a vote because this has been one of those issues that's been up for debate for so long that each state leader knows which way they want to vote.

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