Politics & Government

How the ‘open carry’ gun-rights effort in South Carolina shot itself in the foot

Local gun shop owner discusses carry laws in South Carolina

Robert Battista, 707 Gun Shop owner, is opposed to a law allowing anyone to buy and openly carry a weapon in South Carolina. Battista said on Friday, April 28, 2017, the current law requiring training for concealed weapons and the restrictions on
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Robert Battista, 707 Gun Shop owner, is opposed to a law allowing anyone to buy and openly carry a weapon in South Carolina. Battista said on Friday, April 28, 2017, the current law requiring training for concealed weapons and the restrictions on

The push for open carry gun laws in South Carolina has backfired after one of the bill’s supporters threatened a top state lawmaker.

In response, a state Senate subcommittee chairman postponed Tuesday’s hearing on the bill, effectively killing it for the year by ensuring it misses a Wednesday deadline to pass either the House or the Senate.

State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Georgetown, tweeted Monday he was postponing the hearing “until further notice.”

“Even though I’m supportive of Open Carry ideals, I will not stand by and allow threats to my friends,” Goldfinch wrote in support of S.C. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter McCoy, the Charleston Republican who received the threat.

McCoy is being monitored by law enforcement after a gun rights activist took to social media to suggest shooting McCoy for allegedly holding up an open carry proposal.

The open carry bill would allow lawful gun owners to carry their firearms, concealed or not, without a permit in South Carolina.

Currently, S.C. gun owners must first attend training through a certified South Carolina instructor before they can receive a concealed weapons permit.

In a March 26 Facebook post, the Freedom Action Network of South Carolina called McCoy “the #1 enemy of restoring our gun rights in the Statehouse” for not advancing the constitutional carry legislation. A commenter replied to the post by suggesting McCoy be shot.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating the threat, according to the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, which is monitoring McCoy’s home at the lawmaker’s request.

McCoy and a SLED representative did not return messages seeking comment.

“Under no circumstance do we advocate even the hint of a threat of violence,” Freedom Action of South Carolina President Dave Schwartz said in a statement. “We disagree with Peter on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, but in no way do we wish him or his family any harm of any kind. This comment was on a Facebook advertisement from an individual who is not associated with our organization. And in fact, nobody here knows who he is. The comments were brought to our attention and we removed them.”

The nonprofit says its dedicated to equipping “South Carolinians with the tools to fight corruption, take control of their government, and advocate for freedom,” according to its Facebook page.

“God help us when this happens!,” Rep. Gary Clary, R-Pickens, recently posted on Twiter. “My friend and colleague @petermccoyforsc is one of the most decent, honorable men that I know and serve alongside. Folks, take a deep breath. He is a father, husband, son and friend to many. This is the insanity of today’s politics.”

The proposed law, S. 139, does not prevent businesses or homeowners from banning firearms from their property. And those with firearms would still be barred from already prohibited locations such as schools, government buildings, courthouses, polling locations, day cares and preschools.

Gun owners would remain barred from carrying a firearm into a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol, churches, hospitals, doctor’s offices or clinics, unless given express permission.

The so-called “Constitutional carry” bill would also require South Carolina to recognize concealed weapons permits issued by any other state.

In 2017, the S.C. House approved a bill that would have removed limits on carrying a handgun in the Palmetto State, either concealed or openly, but it died in the Senate last year.

The lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association of America supports the bill, arguing the legislation ensures “any law-abiding adult who may legally possess a firearm may carry a handgun for self-defense without first having to go through government red tape.”

“Self-defense situations are difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate,” according to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “Accordingly, a law-abiding adult’s right to defend himself or herself in such situations should not be conditioned by government-mandated time delays and taxes.”

The South Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America in March urged lawmakers to oppose “permitless carry.” The chapter, which pushes for gun control bills and gun violence prevention, says open carry would “dismantle the public safety standards South Carolina has put in place for who can carry a hidden, loaded handgun in public.”

“We obviously feel like threats made to Rep. McCoy were inexcusable and telling that the people who are the most vocal opponents to gun safety laws are the same people making threats like this,” said Nicole Dietrich, spokeswoman for the Charleston chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. “Making these threats is just the kind of thing, we hope, drives (more S.C. voters to oppose permitless carry). Threats of violence are never the answer.”

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Tom Barton covers South Carolina politics for The State. He has spent more than a decade covering local governments and politicians in Iowa and South Carolina, and has won awards from the S.C. Press Association and Iowa Newspaper Association for public service and feature writing.


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