AT LEAST with the Georgia special gun privileges law last year, South Carolinians got something in return. Or I should say the 6 percent of South Carolinians who are afraid to leave home without a gun got something in return: They got to carry their guns into Georgia, which wouldn’t let them do that as long as we insisted that people who carry concealed weapons in South Carolina meet our requirements. Which Georgia permit holders didn’t have to do. And still don’t have to do, although they can now bring their guns across the border legally.
But it’s hard to see much that even concealed weapons carriers in South Carolina would get in return for this year’s bill to open our state to permitted gun toters from every state in the nation, regardless of how lax the permit requirements are in their home states.
The only restriction would be that people younger than 21 couldn’t carry guns in South Carolina even if their home states allow it. And even this restriction is limited to people who are not in the military — as if being an 18-year-old private means you can keep your surging testosterone in check well enough to be responsible with a gun when your drill sergeant isn’t standing over you barking out orders. (I’ve heard it argued that an 18-year-old in the military is the last person you want carrying a gun when he’s not either in a combat zone or under the direct supervision of his superiors.)
It makes you wonder — once again — if there’s anything S.C. legislators won’t do when their puppet masters at the National Rifle Association start pulling their strings. Certainly, as we saw a few hours before the House Judiciary Committee approved the open-borders-for-guns bill, House members won’t reject the idea of creating special protections for deadbeats who own guns; they voted 98-3 to ensure that people who file for bankruptcy can’t have their first $10,000 worth of guns taken by creditors.
Nobody who’s paying the least bit of attention seriously believes that South Carolina’s Legislature is going to pass any gun restrictions. But wouldn’t it be cool if we’d stop encouraging more people, even people from out of state, to carry and use guns? Wouldn’t it be cool if at least when we passed those laws, it was because there was a demonstrated need for them? Other than pleasing our lawmakers’ NRA masters?
Remember when conservative used to mean “not changing things unless there’s a good reason to change them”? What’s the conservative case for letting people from all over the country carry their guns in South Carolina, regardless of whether they meet the standards we set for South Carolinians to carry guns? It’s certainly not winning reciprocity for South Carolinians, like last year’s George gun law. If it were, the bill would say permit holders from other states may bring their weapons into South Carolina if South Carolinians can take their weapons to those states.
But H.3240 doesn’t say that. It opens our collective arms to anybody with a permit, from anywhere. Even those 10 states that SLED Chief Mark Keel told me “don’t allow any reciprocity at all; they just don’t allow it,” because their requirements are so much tougher than anyone else’s. And their legislatures believe — as ours used to — that they shouldn’t demand less of outsiders than they do of their own citizens.
Rep. James Smith, who knows a little something about weapons, having volunteered to lead combat troops in Iraq, complained that it was unfair to have lower standards for people from other states than we have for South Carolinians. And he’s right.
But that, it seems painfully obvious, is actually the point.
Just like the Georgia law laid the groundwork for this bill, this bill lays the groundwork for the next one: Get rid of all those requirements for South Carolinians to obtain a concealed-weapons permit.
A training course that covers S.C. law on where you can and can’t carry a concealed weapon, and when you can and can’t shoot someone? Who needs that? People who want to carry guns in public places don’t need to know the niceties of the law; they have good motives, so it’s enough for them to do what seems right to them.
Background checks? Just more red tape. What in the world could be dangerous about handing out gun-carrying permits to people judged mentally ill by a court, as S.C. law prohibits? And certainly no one with a criminal record is going to apply for a gun permit. Well, maybe someone who just beats up his wife, but that doesn’t make him a danger to the rest of us, and besides, he doesn’t need a permit to keep guns in his house.
Certainly we shouldn’t require law-abiding South Carolinians to demonstrate that they can shoot straight before we invite them to shoot, in public, anytime they feel threatened. Surely anybody who takes the trouble to get a gun and a permit knows how to shoot a gun.
And if they don’t, I’m sure they can always pick up a few quick pointers from one of those armed 18-year-old privates.
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.