Republicans in South Carolina could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again if they're unable or unwilling to send a Constitutional Carry bill to Gov. Henry McMaster despite their near supermajorities in both the House and Senate, and with House Majority Leader Davey Hiott objecting to amendments to the bill adopted by the Senate last week, the gloomy prospect is now a distinct possibility.
On Thursday, Hiott announced on social media that the House won't even take up the Senate's changes to H3594. Instead, he plans on sending an unamended bill back to the Senate in the coming days.
"While I respect the intentions and efforts of the Senate, the House Republican Caucus remains united in our decision to non-concur with the Senate's changes," Hiott said in a statement on X. "We will return a clean version of the Constituional Carry - Second Amendment Preservation Act to the Senate next week, the exact version that was overwhelmingly passed by the House last year.
"Our dedication to protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens remains steadfast. It is our firm belief that this bill, in its original form, best reflects the fundamental rights and freedoms of our constituents."
That's great and all, but if the bill, in its original form, can't pass the Senate, then where does that leave Constitutional Carry? And honestly, if H3594 dies on the vine this session, who does Hiott think would be more pleased by that result; gun control advocates or gun owners?
Is the version that passed out of the Senate perfect? Nope, but then again, neither is the "clean" bill approved by the House last year, which kept in place many of the state's "gun-free zones" including churches, healthcare facilities, and even private residences and dwellings without the express consent of the property owner. The House version (as well as the amended bill approved by the Senate) also bars anyone convicted of a crime that is punishable by more than one year in prison from possessing firearms or ammunition, which is another problematic provision that isn't likely to pass the "text, history, and tradition" test laid out by the Supreme Court.
The Senate's amendments keep those "sensitive places" intact, while offering relatively minor changes to the House version; increasing the penalties for using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime, mandating that sheriffs offer concealed carry courses to residents on a regular basis, and requiring gun owners whose firearms are stolen to report the theft to police.
I'm not a fan of "lost or stolen" laws, "gun-free zones", or prohibited person statutes that deprive those with non-violent offenses in their past from exercising their Second Amendment rights, but even with those flaws, H3594 would still be a major improvement to the state's current carry laws. And once Constitutional Carry is in place, lawmakers can always debate and approve changes that would make the law even better.
Democrats around the country are intent on adopting as many gun control measures as possible, even though many of their proposals don't go far enough for the most vociferous anti-gunners. The New Mexico House, for instance, amended Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's 14-business-day waiting period to 7 business days, while a Senate committee amended the bill even further to exempt concealed carry holders from the lengthy delays. Do you think Grisham is going to veto that bill once it gets to her desk because she finds those changes unacceptable? She'll happily sign that restriction into law because it'll still be a win for her anti-gun agenda, and she can always pressure lawmakers to remove those amendments going forward.
The same goes for Colorado's new "carry killer" legislation, which would impose nearly two dozen new "gun-free zones" across the state. If, during debate, that number shrinks down to 12 new "sensitive places", gun control activists might complain about those changes, but they're not going to demand Gov. Jared Polis veto the bill because it's not everything that they wanted. They'll be thrilled if they can restrict the right to carry in any way, shape, or form, and they can always come back for more next session.
Hiott's objections to the amended version of H3594 doesn't mean that Constitutional Carry is doomed to defeat this session, but at the very least this is going to delay passage while legislators go back and forth on the changes, and if both chambers dig in their collective heels then we may very well see the legislation stall for at least another year; not because of a filibuster by anti-gun Democrats, but because South Carolina Republicans can't get their act together. Instead of protecting the Second Amendment, they'd be giving gun control activists an unearned victory and reason to cheer. I can't imagine that's what South Carolina GOP lawmakers really want, but unless they can come to an agreement soon, that's exactly what the result will be.