Senate Majority Leader confident open carry bill passes before session ends

Updated: May. 4, 2021 at 8:04 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Despite only having five working days left in this legislative session, lawmakers are confident they will pass a bill changing gun rights in South Carolina.

“I think we have a really good opportunity to a have responsible, strong, pro-second amendment bill come out of the Senate before the end of the legislative session,” Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said.

The “Open Carry with Training Act” would allow anyone with a concealed weapon permit to open show their firearm in public.

South Carolina is one of five states without a law like this on the books. The other places include California, Illinois, Florida, New York, and Washington, D.C.

However, Massey isn’t expecting the bill to cruise through the South Carolina Senate. He said there are 28 amendments that have been put forward, which can lead to hours of debate this week.

“We need to hear people out, let them make their points, but at some point, we need to move along,” the senator said.

Democrats hope to use that time to raise the questions their constituents have brought to them about the bill and make sure the law is clear about what is and isn’t allowed.

Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said his caucus is supportive of the Second Amendment but isn’t sure why existing concealed weapons need to be changed.

“We are not trying to take anyone’s guns, we are not trying to keep people from owning guns, we are not trying to keep people from protecting themselves with guns,” Hutto said. “Where is that line between your right to own a gun and protect yourself and to carry that gun in public.”

Hutto fears people will brandish their guns openly as a way of intimidating people if this bill passes. He also is worried seeing more guns will cause people to reconsider vacationing in South Carolina, where the industry is a major source of revenue.

Republicans say if this bill were to pass it would just protect people from any repercussions if they choose to have their gun visible on their side rather than under a coat or jacket.

“These are people who have had the background checks. They’ve taken the training classes. They are very responsible people. And all we are trying to do is to trust those people and give them more freedom,” Massey said.

Massey also said in states where similar laws have passed it’s rare to see people openly carrying their guns and trying to intimidate people.

If the Senate passes this bill, it will head to the governor. Governor Henry McMaster has previously told reporters he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

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