SC lawmakers revive effort to remove gun permit requirements

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Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 6:55 PM EST
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(AP) - Republican lawmakers in South Carolina have revived efforts to allow firearm owners to carry handguns without a permit, either openly or concealed.

Proposed legislation overcame another hurdle Tuesday when the state’s House Judiciary Committee approved it by a 16-7 vote along party lines. The bill must still pass in the House, then the Senate.

The latest attempt to loosen gun restrictions received a boost when House Republicans reached a supermajority after last fall’s elections. But similar proposals have recently divided the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The bill still bars carrying a gun at correctional facilities, courthouses, polling places on Election Day, preschools, religious sanctuaries, and doctor’s offices, among other places.

It also prohibits firearm possession for people convicted of a crime with a prison sentence of more than one year. A first offense could lead to five years imprisonment. A second offense would carry anywhere from five to 20 years imprisonment.

2021 law allowed people with concealed weapons permits from South Carolina to carry their guns in the open. The law also enabled people who undergo training and background checks to keep guns hidden under their clothing or in their vehicle anywhere there isn’t a sign prohibiting it.

But a long slog ensued two years ago before that law took effect. Senators rejected an attempt to remove the permit requirement before ultimately passing a proposal allowing so-called open carry of guns for people who undergo training and background checks.

The U.S. Supreme Court has since greatly expanded gun rights nationwide.

Tuesday’s committee meeting was packed with gun-control advocates wearing red shirts for the advocacy group Moms Demand Action, which has called the bill reckless for removing required training on how to responsibly carry firearms in public.

Democrats opposed the bill. Some said the effort to forego training requirements is a step in the wrong direction amid continued reports of mass shootings. Others feared the proposal could imperil police officers who would have no way of identifying whether someone at a crime scene should have a gun.