COLUMBIA, SC — With Gov. Nikki Haley’s signature, South Carolinians licensed to carry concealed firearms will be able to carry guns into bars and restaurants as long as they do not drink.
The S.C. House passed a bill Thursday to allow concealed weapons in restaurants by a 90-18 vote, sending the bill to Haley’s desk. Passage of the bill is an expansion of gun rights that had been sought for years by 2nd Amendment advocates.
“Governor Haley has and will always be a supporter of open-carry laws, and will sign any bill that doesn’t restrict the rights of gun owners,” said spokesman Doug Mayer.
The bill would allow people licensed to carry concealed weapons to take their guns into businesses that serve alcohol as long as they do not drink. Businesses also could decide not to allow firearms on their property by posting signs.
A few House members, including state Rep. Walt McLeod, D-Newberry, stalled a vote on the bill Thursday.
McLeod, who voted for the bill last year when it first passed the House, asked lawmakers to be cautious, adding he doubted law enforcement thought the bill was a good idea.
“Booze, beer and wine is powerful stuff,” he said. “It causes people to do things that they ordinarily wouldn’t do.”
Law enforcement officials, including SLED chief Mark Keel, testified last year that guns and bars “do not mix.” The Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense group also pressed lawmakers not to pass the law.
Critics say it will be difficult to know whether someone with a concealed weapon had been drinking in a bar.
“How do you know if I got one besides my honesty?” asked state Rep. Terry Alexander, D-Florence.
But State Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, who has been advocating for the bill in the House, said the fear of penalties for violating the law – including a fine of up to $2,000 or up to two years in jail, and losing a weapons permit for five years – will keep gun owners in line.
“What we are doing is simply giving law-abiding citizens, who can legally own a firearm and who can jump through the hoops and complete a background check,” the ability to have dinner at a restaurant without locking their weapon in their vehicle.
As of Jan. 17, there were 229,310 concealed weapons permits in South Carolina, according to SLED.
While some restaurant owners have expressed concerns about the bill, no collective effort emerged from the hospitality industry to stop it.
Democrats in the Senate, where the bill originated, fought successfully to add a midnight curfew. But the House removed that requirement.
The bill also would change the state’s concealed weapons law, allowing permit applications to be made online. It also would eliminate an eight-hour mandatory training requirement to get a permit, and make it easier for active and retired military and law enforcement members to get a concealed permits by showing proof of their previous training.
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