By Robert Davis
The first of four public hearings to take place across South Carolina convened in North Charleston City Hall Monday evening. It gave the public a chance to talk to legislators about SB115 that would make South Carolina the seventh state with Constitutional Carry. The Palmetto State currently requires applicants to attend an eight hour course, submit fingerprints, a photograph and pay a fee to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for their permit to tote. But under the new bill, all that goes away . . .
Hitting the highlights, SB115 would:
- Change the offense of unlawfully carrying a handgun to carrying a handgun with intent to commit a crime
- Repeal the offence of carrying concealed
- Remove references to concealed weapons permits and allow a private employer or owner to allow/prohibit anyone from carrying a weapon in his business by providing notice with a sign
- Prohibit any person from entering a residence or dwelling of another with a weapon without permission
- Amend the section dealing with people who are allowed to carry a weapon anywhere in the state while on duty, to include law enforcement officers
The vast majority of meeting attendees were there to support the bill. In fact, only one spoke against it. That was City of Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen.
He argued for the concerns of officer safety, and questioned the wording of one particular provision in the bill. From abcnews4.com:
“I think when we talk about this, there has to be a balance, there has to be a balance between what the freedoms of the individual are and what the community safety is…The concern I have with this particular legislation is the fact that it creates for a law enforcement officer the necessity to determine what the criminal intent of a person is who is carrying a firearm,” Mullen said. “Under this legislation, the drug dealers, the robbers, the assaulters that we encounter on a daily basis who have not been convicted, this would be an open invitation for them to carry. So, I think what we would like to see is some discussion of how we can balance those things.”
The Chief left the podium to a rousing chorus of muted grumbles.
All the other speakers stepped up to the podium and addressed their comments to the bill’s benefits. One gentleman explained that his family had suffered several instances of violent crime and he had to pay over to $1000 to get them all permitted so they could defend themselves.
A few speakers pointed out that that they’re too old to outrun or outfight an assailant. Many spoke of the Second Amendment’s current threats and the continued erosion of all of our rights. Another gentleman told the panel of his seven children and 44 grandchildren that have all grown up with firearms and he’d taught each safe and responsible use of them. We heard story after story describing the world we live in and the roadblocks being put up to their natural right to self-defense.
One gentleman asked the panel of legislators, “How many of you have your CWP?” One member raised his hand. He repeated his question to the room, and all but a few hands were in the air. Pointing to the raised hands, he said, “They will be the ones protecting you on the street.”
It was a good turnout considering word of the meeting didn’t get out until the last minute. I didn’t hear about it until seven hours before it began. I only recognized one face in the crowd, and I know dozens of adamant supporters of constitutional carry.
One North Charleston police officer got a chuckle out of me when he approached a group of twenty-something members in the audience. “I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am to see folks in here not drawing social security.”
And he had a point. Looking around, I’d estimate that maybe 40% of the attendance was under age 40. But seeing the varying ages represented in the crowd gives us hope that the urbanization of this area hasn’t choked the life from the local gun culture.
There are three more hearings (Rock Hill, Greenville and Myrtle Beach) before bill goes to the senate for a vote. Judging from the response, I get the feeling it has a very real chance of passing.