A bill in South Carolina would allow those with concealed carry licenses to also openly carry their firearm if they chose to do so; a minor change to state law, but one that gun control advocates are treating as if the state’s getting ready to adopt Constitutional Carry.
The Open Carry With Training Act wouldn’t expand who can carry a gun in the state. It wouldn’t scrap the state’s concealed carry law. It would simply decriminalize the act of exposing a firearm by those who can legally carry. Makes sense, right? Unfortunately, some folks are already speaking out in opposition, though their arguments don’t have a lot of heft to them.
Lowcountry pediatrician Dr. Anne Andrews cited 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating firearms are the leading cause of death for children in South Carolina between the ages of 1 and 19, surpassing motor vehicle accidents.
“Guns that are going to be open carried are most likely going to be loaded, so that would certainly increases the chances the child or a teenager could access a loaded firearm so that would increase risk to those unintentional shootings we often see in young children,” she said.
It’s not unheard of for someone openly carrying to be disarmed by a criminal, but it’s a pretty rare occurrence. Dr. Andrews is including children up to the adult age of 19 in her statistics, because she wants to make it seem like accidents involving firearms are the leading cause of fatalities for South Carolina children, when in reality her statistics include a fairly large amount of violent crime committed by and on juveniles in illegal possession of a firearm, not concealed carry holders legally carrying their gun. Her objection seems less about this specific piece of legislation and more about gun ownership in general.
Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, is concerned this bill would hurt minorities.
“For people who are not familiar with me, I’m just another minority walking the streets,” he said. “I do have concerns if I would be able to open carry the same as my white counterparts.”
Bamberg defines himself as a pro-Second Amendment gun owner. But he is concerned about sheriffs who have spoken out against the idea.
“Minorities all across South Carolina and the country are deemed suspicious when they are just doing everyday activities from running to even sitting in their house eating ice cream like Botham Jean,” Bamberg said.
“Can our state handle that if we now arm everyone, even minorities?” Bamberg said. “I want to be able carry safely, I want people like me to carry safely, but I want to see changes in the bill to help make that happen.”
The right to keep and bear arms is a right of the people, not just the white folks. I do understand Bamberg’s concern, but to me the answer isn’t to restrict the rights of all, but rather to ensure that the rights of all can be exercised. Black Americans have a long tradition of bearing arms in self-defense, and this bill would, I believe, help reduce discrimination against black gun owners by removing the ability of police to charge someone with violating the state’s carry laws because they unintentionally exposed their firearm.
According to one lawmaker, that’s the very issue that this legislation is trying to resolve.
“I understand good faith opposition to guns, I do, I get it, but the reality is this law is very narrowly tailored to address one specific concern and that is people who have CWPs if they are going to be criminalized for having that gun exposed,” Rep. Micah Caskey, R-Lexington, said…
“One way to look at this bill is, what it does is say, if you’ve got a valid concealed weapon permit you won’t be penalized for this gun being exposed,” Caskey said. “So, if you got your coat caught behind your concealed weapon right now that would be a violation of state law. We are trying to decimalize that.”
I hope that Reps. Bamberg and Caskey can talk through their differences of opinion and find common ground here. I truly believe that this bill would be helpful for every concealed carry licensee in the state, but if Bamberg is correct that black gun owners are deemed suspicious by many cops, then this bill would offer real protection against a b.s. charge of openly carrying a gun when there was merely an accidental display of a firearm.
The Open Carry With Training Act really is a small modification to state law, and one that will benefit most those who are legally and lawfully carrying concealed today. If there’s a good argument against the proposal, I haven’t heard it yet. Let’s hope the bill continues to make progress, and the bill’s supporters continue to try to educate others about what the bill does and doesn’t do.
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