South Carolina Open Carry Bill Could Eliminate Fee For Carry License

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

A bill that would have allowed the open carry of firearms without a carry permit died last week in the South Carolina legislature, but another bill that would allow holders of carry licenses to bear arms either openly or concealed has passed both the state House and Senate. The “open carry with training” bill was also amended in the state Senate in a big way, scrapping the $50 application fee that all current applicants have to pay before they can receive a license.

The editorial board of the state’s Post and Courier has been opposed to any changes in the state’s carry laws, and they’re deeply unhappy about the fact that soon South Carolinians may not have to fork over cash before they can exercise a constitutional right.

The so-called constitutional-carry crowd said people shouldn’t have to pay a fee to do what the Second Amendment allows them to do, which would be a great argument if the Second Amendment actually allowed them to carry guns anywhere they want. But the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly made it clear that the Constitution doesn’t provide unlimited gun rights.

So what this provision actually says is that the Senate thinks it’s so important for people to carry their guns in public that the vast majority of South Carolinians who do not choose to do that have to subsidize those who do. Just think about that.

Okay, let’s think about this for a second. The Second Amendment protects both the right to keep (own) and bear (carry) firearms, and while the Supreme Court hasn’t weighed in yet on a carry case, more than 40 states (including South Carolina) have “shall issue” carry laws on the books that mandate the average citizen has a right to carry a firearm in self-defense, so long as they meet the training requirements and can legally own a firearm.

Despite the paper’s claim, the state’s “open carry with training” bill doesn’t allow for guns to be carried anywhere gun owners want. It simply states that gun owners won’t be committing a crime if licensed carry holders expose their firearm instead of keeping it concealed. As for the paper’s assertion that the amendment means that non-carry holders will have to subsidize those who choose to carry a firearm in self-defense, I’d remind the editors that the right to carry is open to all. Whether or not people choose to exercise that right is on them.

The paper’s anti-gun stance is so extreme that the editors are even opposed to another amendment to the bill that would offer free firearms training by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Yes, they’re actually opposed to making training easier to get.

Under current law, if someone wants a permit but “is unable to comply with” the part of the law that requires people to pass an approved training course or meet one of the many exemptions from this requirement, SLED has to provide the training course, at a below-market cost of $50. The Senate amended that to prohibit SLED from charging for the course, which means that reasonable people will now just demand their free SLED course rather than paying someone to provide it. So that’s one more way taxpayers will subsidize the proliferation of guns in public places.

Again, we have the right to bear arms, though, in South Carolina, training is required before a carry license can be issued. Why wouldn’t you be in favor of ensuring that all those who want to carry can get the mandated training, especially if you consider yourself to be a supporter of “commonsense gun safety”?

The state House still has to sign off on the Senate’s amendments, and the Post and Courier editors are demanding that state representatives nix the changes made to the open carry bill, even if it leads to more people carrying a gun without a license because they can’t afford the cost of training and government fees that must be paid before a right can legally be exercised.

These are good amendments that will benefit the economically marginalized and ensure that their right to keep and bear arms isn’t based on the balance in their bank account. It’s disturbing to see the paper gleefully adopt their elitist and condescending attitude toward the Second Amendment rights of low-income Americans, but ultimately it’s a sign of how out-of-touch the paper’s leadership is with the public it purports to serve.