Some USC students wore empty holsters on campus to highlight the fact that CWP holders couldn't carry their guns.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -
Guns have been one of the hottest topics at the South Carolina Statehouse this year, with more than two dozen bills related to guns or gun rights being filed, but most are not likely to pass.
The state Senate has passed a bill that would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry their guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, but there would be some limits. Bars and restaurants would still be able to post signs saying they don't allow guns, the CWP holders would not be allowed to drink alcohol, and they could not have their guns with them in the bar or restaurant after midnight. That bill now goes to the full House.
Supporters say CWP holders are vulnerable walking to and from restaurants and bars at night, and since bars and restaurants are gun-free zones, criminals know that and target them.
But Sen. John Scott, D-Columbia, one of five senators who voted against the bill, says, "I've heard a lot of arguments about their own safety. Why would you go to a restaurant if you did not feel safe in going to that restaurant? In most cases, alcohol and guns just don't mix."
Scott MacRae, co-owner of Yesterday's restaurant and tavern in Columbia's Five Points, is a concealed weapons permit holder himself, so he can see both sides. "As long as they're not drinking, I think that might be okay," he says. "It's just if they start drinking, and who's to say ... with all the best intentions it may not end up that way."
Another gun-related bill that's still alive would have the state report anyone who's been judged to be mentally incapacitated, or has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution, to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to make sure those people can't buy a gun legally.
But all the other gun-related bills have not passed either the House or Senate, and a bill has to have passed one body or the other by May 1st to have a realistic chance of passing this year. After that crossover deadline, a bill would have to get a two-thirds vote just to be debated.
One bill that hasn't made the crossover deadline and is therefore likely dead for the year would eliminate the need for a concealed weapons permit. Called the "Constitutional Carry Act of 2013", it says anyone who can legally buy a gun could carry it openly, without the need for a concealed weapons permit, or CWP.
Another bill would allow teachers and school administrators who have CWPs to carry their guns at school. And another would allow college students who have CWPs to carry their guns on college campuses. Neither of those bills even got out of committee.
On the other end of the firearms debate, bills to restrict gun ownership are also likely dead for the year. A couple of bills would define "assault weapons" and ban them. Those bills never got out of committee. Another bill would require anyone who owns a gun that a child might get their hands on to keep that gun in a locked container or use a trigger lock. The bill would also provide penalties if an injury or death occurred from a gun that was not secured. That bill also never made it out of committee.
Another bill that never got out of committee would require anyone convicted of criminal domestic violence to surrender any guns they have, and it would be illegal to sell a gun to someone with a conviction for criminal domestic violence.
There are also several similar bills that say any federal laws or attempts to ban certain weapons or accessories, like ammunition magazines, or require federal gun registration, would be unenforceable in South Carolina. Those bills also got stuck in committee.