A few weeks ago, amidst howls of outrage from anti-gun activists in the state, the South Carolina House of Represenatives approved a rather modest measure that would allow folks who possess a concealed carry license to also openly carry a firearm. If the gun control movement, as small as it is in South Carolina, didn’t like the “open carry with training” bill, they’re gonna lose their minds over what the House did on Wednesday.
The South Carolina House on Wednesday gave key approval to a so-called constitutional carry bill that would let residents carry guns openly without a permit and with no mandatory training.
Lawmakers voted 69-47 in favor of the bill, weeks after approving a measure that would allow people with concealed-weapons permits to openly carry firearms.
The “ constitutional carry” measure would go further by not requiring any of the weapons training mandated in the open-carry bill and by not requiring any permits. Republicans also amended
Wednesday’s bill to bar the state from enforcing federal gun control regulations.
Guns would still be banned in places such as churches, courthouses and polling places.
“This bill was coming. This was always a part of the plan,” said Republican Rep. Micah Caskey, one of the measure’s sponsors.
Virtually of the media coverage of this bill has talked exclusively about open carry, but as I read the legislation it’s actually a true Constitutional Carry bill. It looks to me that, based on the language that passed the House, lawful gun owners could carry either openly or concealed without a license, though the state’s existing concealed weapons permitting system would remain in place for reciprocity purposes.
There’s been a lot of consternation in some 2A circles in South Carolina over whether or not some Republicans were trying to scuttle the bill, which is why Rep. Caskey made the statement that this bill was part of a strategy on the part of the GOP (though some gun owners may view it as a matter of the House reluctantly taking up the issue instead of facing a grassroots revolt). Whatever the reason, the House delivered a strong majority in favor of the bill on Wednesday, though there were some Republicans who joined Democrats in voting against the measure, along with some attempts to score political points with amendments.
Republicans voted to table a handful of amendments, from one that would get rid of the state’s “stand your ground” law, which allows residents to defend themselves with deadly force if they feel they are at risk of great bodily harm, to a proposal that would legalize duels.
“I suggest we … go out in the middle of Assembly Street and just shoot it out,” said Democratic Rep. Cezar McKnight.
Rep. John King, a Democrat from York County, introduced an amendment that would let people carry guns on all public property — including on the Statehouse grounds, where firearms are currently banned.
Caskey called the suggestion a “poison pill” that would violate federal gun-free school zone restrictions;
Bamberg countered that lawmakers had just passed an amendment saying the state doesn’t need to follow federal regulations. Lawmakers tabled that amendment, too.
One Republican, Rep. Bart Blackwell, spoke against the bill, citing its lack of training requirements: “The current gun laws we have in the state are the best in the nation, and they need to stay that way.”
South Carolina’s gun laws are pretty good, but they’re one of five states in the nation that doesn’t allow for the open carrying of firearms in any circumstance, and that needs to be rectified. As for open carry without a permit leading to more violent crime, I live in Virginia, where open carry without a permit has been legal for decades, and our state’s had a lower violent crime rate compared to South Carolina as well. At least we did before Democrats took over in Richmond and started passing gun control laws in early 2020. Those new laws didn’t prevent a steep increase in violent crime across the state last year.. but I digress.
It would still be against the law for prohibited persons to carry a gun either openly or concealed, so the fears that criminals would suddenly begin to carry guns when they’re currently walking around unarmed is a stretch, to put it mildly.
The bill was also amended to include some type of Second Amendment Sanctuary language, but I’m waiting for the state legislature’s website to make the text of that amendment available before I opine on it.
Regardless of the specifics of the amendment, however, he prospects for the Constitutional Carry bill in the state Senate are very much up in the air. In the House vote, several members of Republican leadership voted against HR 3096, and it’s likely that the Senate leadership will want to take a more small-“c” conservative approach by running with the “open carry with training” bill instead. I think that would be a mistake. In a year in which three other states have already adopted true Constitutional Carry language, if the Republican-controlled legislature in South Carolina can’t do the same, then Republicans should seriously consider some legislative primaries next year.