State lawmakers expected to begin debates on open-carry law

State lawmakers expected to begin debates on open-carry law

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina lawmakers are slated to debate a bill that could change when and where people can carry guns.

Some of them say they expect hours of heated debate on the Open Carry with Training Act. The bill would allow handguns to be carried openly if the gun owner has a concealed weapons permit.

But by the end of the day’s debates, the bill could look very different.

“As we’ve seen in the past year with the protests and the pandemic people are very fearful and need to protect themselves and this is in advancement of doing that,” Rep. Bobby Cox, R-Greenville, the bill’s sponsor said. “This is a bill that protects our Second Amendment rights, expands them and prevents overreach from the federal government and opens the ability to protect yourself.”

But Cox expects many changes to be proposed, including from colleagues in his own party.

“I’ve always expected a constitutional carry amendment will be added onto the bill, and I’ve supported that myself,” he said.

A constitutional carry amendment would make it so any gun owner can carry their weapon openly without a permit.

Currently, South Carolina gun owners can carry a long gun or rifle openly without a permit because no state law exists on the issue to prevent it. But you can’t carry a handgun openly even with a permit.

The bill, in its original form, would change that law so a handgun could be carried in the open with a permit.

Cox says all lawmakers will be able to vote on the bill the amendment or both.

But some Democrats fear all scenarios will hurt the state, and in particular, minorities.

“Skyler Davis, an 11-year-old getting her grandmother’s mail, she couldn’t get mail without being harassed by somebody,” Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, said. “Now we arm individuals and I think anybody would be lying to themselves if they were not willing to acknowledge there isn’t a high likelihood there will be a call or someone will be harassed or profiled.”

Cox said he has talked to minority groups and says there was mixed reaction. But he says he did hear a fair amount of support for the bill.

“A lot of times, these laws that are preventing people from carrying guns were racist in the beginning but now this allows someone to open constitution carry to all people from all walks of life so they can protect themselves,” Cox said.

“If you are worried about your safety there are already means to get a CWP and carry wherever you want effectively, so there’s more than meets the eye,” Bamberg said.

Bamberg said part of the reason this bill is coming up now is because of election results.

“In this state, we lost three Senate seats on the Democratic side, the Republicans almost have a supermajority in both chambers and it’s been called, ‘No Excuses,’” Bamberg said. “This is ‘No Excuses’ legislation. That’s why you see these gun bills, that’s why you see these abortion bills.”

Republicans say these are the issues that matter to their constituents.

Cox also said he plans to push for a bill that would provide more funding to law enforcement, in part, for more training.

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