South Carolina House Approves Open Carry Bill

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

A piece of legislation that would allow those who possess a concealed carry license to also openly carry was approved on second reading by the South Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday by a vote of 82-33. The bill still needs one more House vote before it heads to the state senate, but the measure is expected to be approved by a similar vote on final reading.

The vote in favor of the new legislation may not have been close, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any opponents. In fact, during the debate over the bill some anti-gun lawmakers unleashed some absurd objections.

Rep. Jermaine Johnson Sr., a freshman Democrat, wondered what would happen if he were to openly carry in an elevator while he was out running errands.

“Me being 6’7”, 285 pounds and Black…with my tattoos showing, and a gun on my hip,” said Johnson, “what that looks like to the small, white woman who’s already terrified at the sight of me being in close quarters with her. What does that look like?”

Not to sound cold and callous towards the hypothetical woman that Johnson created out of thin air, but if she’s already terrified simply by standing in an elevator with a large black man, I’d say the fact that he might be openly carrying isn’t really the issue.

Johnson also says that the legislation could make targets out of black gun owners, but I think it would actually have the opposite effect. Instead of facing arrest for the inadvertent display of their concealed firearm, as is the case right now, black gun owners would be protected from discriminatory enforcement of the concealed carry laws if this provision is in place.

“Do you not see that is wild Wild West shoot out,” asked Rep. Leon Howard (D-Richland) on the SC House Floor, describing how police may be in a situation with a distressed man with a firearm. “I mean, is that the right direction we’re going in?”

How on earth would this lead to the “Wild Wild West”? The bill simply states that those who possess a concealed carry license can also carry openly. The vast majority of concealed carry holders won’t, but the bill also protects them from being charged if they accidentally expose their concealed firearm. That’s the main focus of the bill, which truly offers a minor change to state law, especially compared to the Constitutional Carry legislation that’s also been introduced in South Carolina.

In fact, that bill is expected to be taken up by the House in the coming weeks.

“We pursued that track mainly because that’s what the feedback we got from most of the polling we did,” Rep. Bobby Cox, R-Greenville said. “But then we realized we need to do that right thing and go all the way.”

 

Cox says a bill that would allow gun owners to carry all weapons openly without a permit will be debated on the House floor by mid-April.

If anti-gun lawmakers don’t like the “open carry with training” bill, they’re gonna lose their minds during the debate over Constitutional Carry.

At the end of the day, however, the objections to either bill are off base. There are 45 states in the Union that allow for the open carrying of firearms, either with or without a license. South Carolina’s current ban on the practice is the aberration, not the other way around. What the opponents of these bills seem to suggest is that the South Carolinians they represent in the legislature just aren’t as trustworthy as the residents of most other states. I don’t know how well that will play with the public when elections roll around next year, but it’s not a very compelling argument in favor of restricting the rights of gun owners in the state.

Apr 15, 2021 2:30 PM ET