SC Open Carry Bill Headed To Governor's Desk

AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins

The state of South Carolina has a lot of people who wanted open carry. While many in the gun community disagree with it for a number of reasons, few think it should be illegal. For now, South Carolinians aren’t allowed to carry a firearm openly, which state activists have been trying to change.

They haven’t been having much luck.

That all changed earlier this week.

A bill allowing gun owners with concealed weapons permits to carry openly will soon hit the governor’s desk.

The bill passed the House Wednesday after lawmakers rejected another attempt to further expand gun rights by eliminating the state’s concealed weapons permit law altogether.

House lawmakers voted 83-34 to send Gov. Henry McMaster the coined “open carry with training” legislation, agreeing to a handful of changes made by the Senate last week. The vote was mostly down party lines, with a handful of Democrats — some of who said they are concealed weapons permit holders — voting with their Republican colleagues.

The Senate had previously made a few but some major technical changes to H. 3094, sponsored by state Rep. Bobby Cox, R-Greenville, whose main goal, he said, is to some day strip the permit requirement.

Senators tweaked the legislation to limit the federal government’s intervention over the coming state law. They added a measure to require that court clerks send pertinent background records to the State Law Enforcement Division within five days, and senators eliminated South Carolina’s $50 permit fee — worth millions of dollars a year to the state’s top law enforcement agency.

The legislation, adjoining the state with 45 other states that have some type of open carry laws, will take effect 90 days from the governor’s signature.

This is good news. It’s very good news, to be sure. Especially since there’s every reason to believe the bill will get signed.

However, not everyone is happy with it.

What they wanted, and what they looked like they were going to get, was permitless open carry. Any law-abiding citizen who can legally purchase a handgun would be allowed to openly carry a handgun. There’s no reason someone shouldn’t be able to do this, mind you, but it made a lot of people uncomfortable.

As a result, permitless open carry wasn’t going to pass.

Instead, they get a measure that allows open carry. It will let them begin to undermine the arguments that openly carried firearms are somehow a threat to the public. After they’re allowed for a period of time, you can point to the data and show that it doesn’t represent a threat.

I get being upset, but take this as a win. Not only do you get open carry but your permits are about to be free. I can’t tell you how awesome that one is, especially after learning about what Nebraska pays ($200). That’s around what California charges, for crying out loud. And South Carolina is getting it for free.

Honestly, this is a position pro-gun groups need to stake out in the coming years. While expanding gun rights is great, making it so people don’t have to pay could be even bigger, especially for states that aren’t ready to go for permitless carry.

I’m glad to see South Carolinians have some degree of open carry. It’s not what they wanted, but it’s a step in the right direction. It sets the stage for more gun rights expansion in the state, especially after the doom and gloom doesn’t come to fruition.