Infighting May Doom SC Open Carry Bill

AP Photo/Eric Gay, File

Open carry is one of those subjects that can be remarkably divisive in the gun community. Some people absolutely love it and think it's the best thing ever while others think it's dumb for any number of reasons.


I'm personally not a fan, but I don't think anyone is a bad person or anything for preferring open carry. There are times when I've done it, after all, so I'm not about to be a hypocrite here.

In South Carolina, a bill that would allow open carry without a permit seemed like a no-brainer. It's a conservative state and those tend to be pro-gun. Numerous other Southern states allow it and haven't seen any issues with it.

Yet it may well fail.

Why? Because the people who should be supporting the bill are apparently fighting amongst themselves.

 A proposal to allow any legal gun owner to openly carry their weapon in public without training is struggling to pass through South Carolina’s General Assembly as Republicans and gun rights supporters argue among themselves.

The bill would appear to be an easy lift in a reliably conservative state. Twenty-seven other states allow open carry of guns without a permit, including nearly every state in the Deep South.

But the bill is in limbo as some Senate Republicans insist on adding a carrot and stick to the proposal by funding the training currently required for open-carry permits, and adding extra punishments when people without the training carry guns into places where they are outlawed, like schools, hospitals, churches, government offices and courthouses.

Republicans in the House insisted on their own version Tuesday with a vote of 85-26, after only a few minutes of open debate and plenty of discussions behind closed doors.

“We debated it, we talked about it and we realized our bill is the best bill forward for South Carolinians to protect their freedoms and to get criminals off the street,” said House sponsor Republican Rep. Bobby Cox of Greer.

If the Senate stands firm for its version, chances for a compromise are uncertain in a conference committee made up of three members from each chamber.

The biggest sticking point is the extra Senate penalty for taking a weapon into a prohibited space without having taken the training for a concealed weapons permit. To encourage training, the Senate bill would pay at least $4 million to hold free classes across the state.

The Senate’s version left plenty of supporters of the open carry idea unhappy, including gun rights groups.


The issue here is that this works out to be yet another compromise. While open carry is the ultimate goal, which is what the NRA says in backing the bill, it's still basically pretending that lawful gun owners are some degree of the problem.

Lawful gun owners aren't going to carry firearms in places that are off-limits, after all. They might not go to those places much at all, but they're not generally going to carry a gun someplace they're banned.

If they want to carry in those places, they'll seek out the training, but the fact that they act like any kind of training requirement is a good thing sets a lot of gun rights advocates on edge.

So because of this, it's entirely possible South Carolina may not get permitless open carry.

Personally, anything that moves the needle toward fewer restrictions on gun rights is a worthy goal. As it stands, I think this bill does and passing it is a step forward. After this passes, you can address the problems in the next legislative cycle while still restoring at least some degree of South Carolinians' right to keep and bear arms.

But that's easy for me to say since I live in a state without a training requirement.

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