Lawmakers consider bill to allow open carry in South Carolina

The Palmetto State is one of only five states in the country without legislation that allows...
The Palmetto State is one of only five states in the country without legislation that allows some form of open carry.(Live 5 News)
Updated: Feb. 4, 2021 at 8:44 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As activists work to honor survivors of gun violence this week, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would give some people the ability to openly carry guns in South Carolina.

The Palmetto State is one of only five states in the country without legislation that allows some form of open carry.

However, House Bill 3094 has several law enforcement leaders and other groups worried about its consequences.

“This is an incremental step towards restoring our constitutional freedoms,” Representative Bobby Cox said.

The Greenville County lawmaker is among a list of 67 state representatives who support the legislation, which was discussed Thursday morning among members of the state’s General Laws Subcommittee.

“This is not creating the wild west. This is simply a commonsense measure bringing South Carolina in line with other states, including all of your neighbors,” National Rifle Association Representative D.J. Spiker said to the subcommittee’s members. “While it’s a small step, it’s a critical step and a step that’s long overdue in bringing South Carolina in line with a vast majority of the country.”

The “Open Carry with Training Act” applies to those who have a concealed carry permit, and it allows open carry wherever a gun holder is permitted to carry a concealed weapon in the state.

“What we are asking is for you to allow concealed carry holders to take off their coat,” Spiker said.

But many people, even some gun owners, worry this legislation will increase gun violence and put a heavy burden on business owners.

“Open carry with or without training is a mistake for South Carolina,” Arm in Arm Representative Meghan Trezies said.

Her organization advocates on behalf of South Carolinians who support responsible gun ownership.

“The training aspect of this bill is an illusion. It’s a security blanket meant to make us feel better about an inherently dangerous policy. Once we make this mistake, there’s no dialing this policy back and no making it better,” Trezies said.

Some law enforcement leaders question the timing of this effort and worry about how the measure could be enforced.

“At this time, today, right now, this does not make sense to me,” Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said. “I don’t think it’s gong to be helpful. In fact, I think for us, it could create more harm and create more challenges at a time when we should be reducing violent crime and focused on repeat violent, criminal offenders, when we’re trying to do a whole variety of things to address other issues of paramount importance...these laws are not going to be of great help.”

Reynolds hopes lawmakers will set aside their debate on open carry to prioritize other efforts to address violent crime, repeat offenders, and other issues related to law enforcement. He also stressed that he fully supports the second amendment rights of every American citizen. However, he is worried about the repercussions of such legislation on already tense situations like protests and riots, among others.

Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano shared similar sentiments in a statement. She said she supports the ability for citizens to bear arms, but she firmly stands in opposition to open carry.

“I am however perplexed as to why, after all of the conflict, protests and rise in violent crimes involving gun violence, over the past year that legislature is prioritizing a measure that would, in my professional opinion, put our professionals in a tactical disadvantage to protect and serve all of the citizens we serve,” Graziano said. “My region, as well as nationally is facing a defensive stance in the Increase of violent crimes involving firearms. The past year has been extremely challenging for law enforcement and open carry further blurs the lines of what our professionals face during a crisis much less in everyday normality. I will remain opposed to a bill that creates opportunity for our communities and our servants to be less safe. To put them in that position is selfish and irresponsible.”

A representative for Moms Demand Action spoke before lawmakers Thursday, echoing the concerns of the group members Dr. Anne Andrews and Jean Sutton.

“Survivors of gun violence, whether they’ve lost a loved one or whether they’ve been threatened themselves with a gun, if they’re out in public trying to go about their lives and they’re encountering adults with handguns on their hip...that can be quite traumatizing to people and rob them of a sense of safety and security,” Andrews said.

“Carrying firearms visibly in public is dangerous because it’s proven that when guns are present disagreements more easily turn violent,” Sutton said.

By early February, more Americans are killed with guns than are killed in other high-income countries in an entire year,” according to the group, and 58 percent of American adults or someone they care for have personally experienced gun violence in their lifetimes

Moms Demand Action is calling on other South Carolina volunteers as they highlight the resilience of SC’s gun violence survivors and share and lift up their stories. The group will hold a statewide, virtual event Saturday to honor survivors of gun violence.

“We will also get a better understanding of the gun violence in our state, and provide information to increase the engagement of supporters in our work to end gun violence,” a facebook post about the event stated.

To RSVP and receive a link to join, visit

There are currently four other bills related to the topic being considered by house and senate members.

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