While several states are pursuing Constitutional Carry legislation this year, in South Carolina lawmakers are taking a more cautious approach to expanding the right to bear arms. A bill that would allow those who possess a concealed carry license to also openly carry has cleared a statehouse committee, but not without some objections from Democrat lawmakers and members of the public.
One of those testifying against the bill is Dr. Betsy Oddo, a South Carolina pediatrician who’s now penned an op/ed declaring that the legislation would endanger children if it becomes law.
H.3094 would be detrimental to the safety of our community, and therefore the safety of our children, for several reasons.
First, research has already shown that a visible gun makes people more aggressive. These findings suggest that simple disagreements would be more likely to turn violent if a gun were involved. An unfortunate example of this occurred this month when an employee at a downtown Charleston bar was shot when a patron became upset over the bar’s earlier closing time due to state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions.
That unfortunate incident didn’t involve the open carrying of a firearm. In fact, the man arrested for the shooting doesn’t possess a concealed carry license, so he wasn’t legally carrying to begin with. In other words, Oddo’s objection here is off-base, since the legislation in question would simply allow those with a concealed carry license to carry either openly or concealed.
Second, open carry is opposed by law enforcement, including Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds, as it makes their job more difficult during active-shooter situations. In fact, open carry is opposed by most South Carolinians, with a 2018 poll showing 90% of South Carolina voters — including 90% of Republicans, 92% of Democrats, 89% of gun-owning households and 90% of households with concealed-weapons permit holders — were against open carry of loaded handguns in public places.
I haven’t been able to find the poll that Oddo cites, and its true that Chief Reynolds objects to the open carry bill, but neither of those things are reason enough to oppose a piece of common-sense legislation. The biggest impact of this bill, it it does become law, would be on those concealed carry holders who can end up facing criminal charges in places like Charleston if they accidentally expose their concealed firearm, even temporarily. The vast majority of those with concealed carry licenses are going to continue to carry concealed, because that’s how most of us prefer to carry.
It seems to me that Oddo’s real objection is to gun ownership in general, not just this particular piece of legislation. In fact, she makes that pretty clear in the conclusion of her piece.
As a pediatrician, I am not alone in advocating against open carry.
The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the strongest possible gun laws to protect children. This stance is not based on opinion: States with stricter gun laws have lower rates of per-capita gun deaths. South Carolina is heading in the wrong direction, as evidenced by the rising rates of pediatric firearm injuries and deaths and the imminent passage of H.3094 in the House.
For these reasons I urge lawmakers to forgo their political ties and instead listen to their constituents, law enforcement and pediatricians. If nothing else, consider the impact this bill would have on our children’s safety.
Oddo never provides a single data point or piece of evidence that passage of H. 3094 would have any impact whatsoever on the safety of children in South Carolina. We’re just supposed to take her at her word apparently because she’s a pediatrician.
That’s not how it works. Oddo presented her best case, but it’s just not a good argument. This bill represents a fairly minor change to South Carolina’s gun laws, but its clear that Oddo would like to impose severe restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms instead of backing a practical piece of legislation that would help prevent arrests and criminal charges over the unintentional display of a lawfully-carried gun.