UPDATE: Second Amendment Bills

● Concealed carry bills pass House, await Senate approval
● Plenty of assertion, no evidence from gun rights opponents
● Gun restriction bills going nowhere

We’re about halfway through the second year of the current two-year legislative session, and it doesn’t appear that gun rights will be significantly expanded before lawmakers go home. The good news is that attempts to further restrict citizens’ Second Amendment freedoms have mostly fallen flat.

Bills that promote gun rights

A March 24 Senate Judiciary subcommittee meeting on four gun bills was a good indicator of just how much freedom lawmakers may be willing to consider.

H.3799 – Recognizing Georgia concealed carry permits
Status: Passed House and Senate subcommittee, awaiting debate in full Judiciary Committee

This bill would allow any individual who holds a valid Georgia concealed weapon permit (CWP) to carry a concealed weapon in South Carolina. Since Georgia automatically recognizes CWPs from states that recognize Georgia CWPs this bill would also allow South Carolina CWP holders to carry a concealed weapon in Georgia.

H.3025 – Allowing concealed carry without a permit
Status: Passed House, carried over in Senate subcommittee

This bill would allow any individual over the age of 21 who is not legally barred from owning a handgun to carry a concealed handgun on their person in public. Citizens would no longer be required to obtain a CWPs to carry concealed, but they would still have the option to obtain one. They would still be prohibited from carrying in certain locations specified in state law (courthouses, police stations, daycares, etc.).

The bill would also require that South Carolina accept as valid a CWP from any state. In current law South Carolina will only accept out-of-state CWPs from designated reciprocal states. Finally, H.3025 would reduce the severity of the law concerning carrying a firearm into a business that serves alcohol. Carrying in an alcohol-serving establishment would only be illegal (a) if the business has posted a sign clearly prohibiting carrying on its premises, (b) if the armed person refuses to leave the business when asked by a person legally in control of the premises, or (c) if the armed person consumes alcohol on the premises. The maximum penalty for any of the above mentioned offenses would also be reduced from a three- to two-year jail term.

H.4701 – Refusing to enforce federal firearm laws
Status: Passed House and Senate subcommittee, awaiting debate in full Judiciary Committee

This bill would prohibit the state from assisting in the enforcement of federal law or regulation that limits the right of a person to own, possess, or use a firearm, ammunition, or firearm accessories, and that takes effect after January 1, 2016. H.4701 would also prohibit the state from accepting federal funds related to a federal law or regulation that requires firearms to be registered or confiscated and that takes effect after January 1, 2016.

S.1023Allowing certain public officials to carry concealed anywhere in the state, even when retired
Status: Passed Senate subcommittee, awaiting debate in full Judiciary Committee

This bill would allow judges, magistrates, solicitors, clerks of court, and workers’ compensation commissioners to carry concealed anywhere in the state, whether they are active in their positions or retired. Current law only allows these officials to carry concealed anywhere in the state when they are carrying out the duties of their office.

The subcommittee debate on these bills was instructive. The bill related to judicial officials and the bill related to federal firearm laws each passed the subcommittee with little debate. H.3799, by contrast (granting South Carolina recognition of Georgia CWPs), and H.3025 (allowing permit-less concealed carry) each faced fierce opposition.

A number of opponents spoke against the other bills (the Sheriff’s Association, Moms Demand Action). In every case, the contention was some version of a warning that the bill would increase gun violence. In no case, however, was statistical evidence used.

By contrast, Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg) spoke in support of H.3025 (permit-less concealed carry). He correctly pointed out that numerous other states (currently seven, with Idaho to become the eighth on July 1) allow permit-less concealed carry. Many of these state laws were passed in the last year or two, and one – Vermont – has had permit-less carry since it became a state. Hence it is difficult to draw data. Yet in the three states (Alaska, Arizona, and Wyoming) that legalized permit less carry between 2003 and 2011, the enactment of the policy hasn’t had a significant effect on murder rates, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics. In all three cases the yearly murder rate has undergone minor shifts (mostly downward) since enactment, and the murder rate in 2013 – the most recent year for which data is available – is lower than it was in the year the policy was enacted.

This last point isn’t too surprising since earlier meta-studies by the National Academy of Sciences and the Center for Disease Control in 2004 and 2003, respectively, couldn’t find any gun control measures that meaningfully reduced violent crime or gun violence.

Empirical evidence notwithstanding, H.3799, the Georgia reciprocity bill, passed after some debate. H.3025, permit-less carry was ultimately carried over, meaning it will most likely die in subcommittee. Sen. Bright made a motion for passage of the bill but was unable to get a second from either of the other subcommittee members, Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) or Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington).

Bills restricting gun rights

 Of the 16 bills filed this session that would further restrict gun rights or attach harsher penalties to existing firearm law, not one has left the initial committee to which it was assigned.

These bills would:

Increase background check requirements: H.4339, H.4480, H.4551, H.4552, S.917, S.918, and S.941

Establish universal gun registries: H.4564, S.943

Ban so-called assault weapons: H.4440, S.939

Increase penalties for unlawful carrying of a firearm: H.4441, H.4444, H.4561

Mandate reporting lost or stolen firearms: S.940

Require a permit even to purchase a firearm: S.942

In short, the state of gun rights in South Carolina will likely be the same in December of 2016 as it was in January. The most significant bill with a chance of becoming law would allow South Carolina CWP holders being permitted to carry concealed in Georgia.

Like this update? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-bulletin.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email