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Open carry supporters aiming for second round of legislative approval

Published: Mar. 13, 2017 at 3:15 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 13, 2017 at 3:45 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Critics are promising to push back on a new bill that would allow gun owners to carry their weapons with or without a permit, but it's not clear when the proposal will be up for further debate.

Republican members of the South Carolina House Judiciary subcommittee approved H. 3930 late last week in a meeting lasting only minutes and without input from two Democrats who could not attend.

The bill was introduced just two days before the subcommittee vote by lead sponsor Rep. Mike Pitts of Laurens.

Pitts was the only subcommittee member to comment during the meeting.

The bill is similar to a measure backed by Pitts that gained full House approval last year but failed in the Senate.

Senators also overwhelmingly rejected similar so-called "Constitutional carry" legislation in 2014.

Right now, 31 states allow the unconcealed carrying of guns, and they also allow owners to do so without a permit, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

But the proposed legislation still concerns even some gun owners who have permits. Jeff Diehl is one of them. He runs a restaurant called Chickadee's in Columbia, where he welcomes gun owners with CWP's, but feels open carry could be dangerous and bad for business.

"That's an open gun," Diehl said. "That's not a police officer. Nothing that says police officer. That's scary to me. Let's get out of here. Let's fight, let's run, let's panic. Whatever. To me, it's inherently dangerous, whether it's a restaurant or hospital."

State Representative James Smith is a member of the Judiciary subcommittee, who wasn't able to appear at last week's meeting. As a war veteran, he understands guns but has serious concerns about the open carry bill. Smith says he wants that bill to be sent back to the subcommittee, indicating the passage happened without public input or any chance for legislative opposition.

A House Judiciary Committee staffer says the next meeting of the full committee has not been scheduled.

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