IMAGINE GEORGIA sold driver’s licenses the same way convenience stores sell soft drinks: Hand over your money, and you get a license. No training required. No tests to pass. No questions asked.
Would South Carolina allow untrained 12-year-olds to drive in our state? Or would we pass a law to rescind the driver’s license reciprocity that we share with other states, and require them to have some minimal standards before their residents can drive on our roads?
SC lawmakers move toward recognizing Georgia gun law
Of course we would act to keep our highways safe from drivers with no training or self-control or clue about highway safety.
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Yet faced with a similar situation when it comes to concealed-weapons permits, our legislators are rushing to do just the opposite: to invite Georgia’s untrained, untested permit holders to carry their weapons in our state.
Under South Carolina law, people with concealed-weapons permits from other states are allowed to carry their guns just about anywhere in South Carolina as long as their home state grants South Carolinians the same privilege and “requires an applicant to successfully pass a criminal background check and a course in firearm training and safety.”
Scoppe: Armed, untrained and cruising the bars
Georgia does not require its permit holders to take a class, much less pass a test. Frankly its background check leaves something to be desired — it’s a one-time thing that isn’t rerun periodically, like ours is, to make sure there have been no crimes committed since the permit was issued — although it technically meets our legal requirement.
Normally no one in South Carolina would lose any sleep over the fact that Georgians can’t pack heat in South Carolina, but for this one problem: Georgia has that same reciprocity requirement as we do. Since we don’t recognize Georgia’s inferior permits, Georgia refuses to recognize our superior permits.
South Carolinians who live near the Georgia border are understandably upset that they have to either leave their guns at home or else break the law when they cross into Georgia. They say there’s a simple solution to this problem, and they’re right.
But the solution isn’t for us to abandon our standards, as a bill that passed the House and is pending on Tuesday in a Senate committee proposes to do. If we did that, in effect, the Georgia Legislature would be rewriting our law.
The solution is for Georgia to adopt some standards.
We don’t ask much of concealed-weapons permit holders. Applicants must be at least 21 years old, pass a criminal background check, pass a training class that covers state law on the use of deadly force, handgun safety and storage practices, and fire a gun in the presence of the instructor.
We already dumbed down our law a couple of years ago, when we stripped out a requirement that the training course last eight hours — a change that one concealed-weapons instructor warned would lead to training mills, operated by people who cut their courses down to the bare minimum in order to attract students who don’t want to sit through the full class.
Police in South Carolina roundly oppose this latest change, making the reasonable and obvious observation that it’s dangerous to allow people to carry weapons when they don’t know anything about the law (like the fact that you can’t drink if you take a gun into a bar, or that you can’t take a gun onto a college campus, or into the State House) and can’t shoot straight enough to hit the broad side of a courthouse.
But people who feel the need to be armed at all times have this funny way of thinking about the police: They’re 100 percent behind the officer who shoots an unarmed civilian; but let the police suggest that we should have some very modest gun laws, and suddenly they’re jackbooted thugs.
Scoppe: Guns in bars, and other silly ideas
Those police warn that if we pass this special law allowing untrained and untested Georgians to carry weapons in South Carolina, it won’t be long before South Carolinians will demand that they be allowed to carry weapons without training. It’s easy to see how they’d get what they want.
Even if you imagine this isn’t dangerous, the next step is predictable: Some of the 21 states that currently recognize S.C. permits would decide that our law isn’t good enough any more, and revoke our reciprocity. Frankly, they’d be crazy not to, and so as a result South Carolinians would gain the right to carry weapons into Georgia but lose the right to carry them into many other states.
This bill is a bad idea for people who don’t want to live in an armed-to-the-teeth society, and it’s a bad idea for people who do. Senators should kill it while they still can.