While most of the recent discussion about Constitutional or permitless carry has centered around Florida (where a permitless carry bill is now queued up and ready for action on the floor of the House once the legislative session officially kicks off next month), the Sunshine State isn’t the only place where lawmakers are considering removing the requirement that legal gun owners obtain a state-issued permission slip before exercising their right to bear arms. A permitless carry bill is awaiting action on the floor of the Nebraska Senate as well, and in South Carolina the House of Representative overwhelmingly voted in favor of a Constitutional Carry measure on Thursday morning, sending the bill on to the state Senate.
H.3594, the South Carolina Constitutional Carry/Second Amendment Preservation Act of 2023, maintains the federal background check requirements to purchase a firearm and the concealed weapons permit process for reciprocity carry in other states. According to a news release, it does not change who can legally possess a firearm or where they can carry it.
The measure, which lawmakers passed by a 90-30 vote largely along party lines, also increases penalties for felons illegally possessing a firearm.
Law-abiding “citizens should not need a permission slip from the government to exercise their Second Amendment right,” state Rep. Bobby Cox, R-Greenville, said in a news release. “This bill restores their constitutional freedom to protect themselves and penalizes those criminals who illegally own firearms.”
The bill even managed to pick up the support of a few Democrats, with the caucus releasing a statement on Twitter both objecting to the bill and trying to take credit for improving the legislation.
By a vote of 90-30, the House passed a bill allowing for the permitless carry of guns.
While we have serious concerns about its impact, Democrats worked to make the bill better and ensure ALL South Carolinians are treated equally under the law.
— SC House Democrats (@SCHouseDems) February 22, 2023
So what changes were made? Well, Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) says he offered an amendment prohibiting law enforcement from using an openly-carried firearm as grounds for reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime has been committed, something he thinks will provide protection for “everyone, especially people of color, from unjustified searches and seizures.” That actually does make an already good bill a little better, and I don’t know of any gun owner who’d object to that provision.
With the overwhelming majority of House members in favor of the Constitutional Carry bill, you’d think the legislation would be assured of passage in the state Senate, where Republicans hold 30 of the chambers 46 seats. So far, however, the Senate Majority Leader is unconvinced that the bill be approved if it comes up for a vote on the floor.
When asked if the Senate has the votes to pass such an expansive gun measure, Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey responded, “I don’t know.”Sen. Shane Martin, R-Spartanburg, who pushed for the Senate to remove permitting requirements two years ago, believes he can get it done this year.“I lost 21-25 last time I tried (to pass permitless carry),” Martin said. “I believe that two votes are different and we should be 23-23 without pressure. We should have enough to get it done,” adding that he’s filed a Senate version of “constitutional carry” but is willing to use the House’s version as a vehicle after reviewing any differences.