A proposed law making its way through the South Carolina legislature would loosen gun ownership to an astonishing level. If passed, legal gun owners could bring their weapons to restaurants, day-care centers, and churches. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Thad Viers (R), says that expanding the places that one can carry a concealed weapon in the state is an effective anti-crime measure:
“It puts criminals on the defense,” said state Rep. Thad Viers, R-Horry, a co-sponsor of the bill and the owner of about 25 firearms and a concealed weapons permit. “Criminals don’t know if you’re carrying or not.”
Amazingly, the only debate in the legislature appears to be whether the bill goes far enough. Ed Kelleher, president of GrassRoots South Carolina, a powerful gun group in the state, says the bill “violates the constitutional rights of gun owners” because it only allows for adult, state residents to carry guns in these places — not young people or out-of-state residents. “While the bill might make it better for people in South Carolina, it’s going to be a lot worse for others, including those visiting us,” Kelleher said. “We depend on tourism here, and this has chilling effect on that.”
In a story about the bill, The State included a list of extreme gun bills that South Carolina has adopted in recent years:
— 2009: New law allows people with concealed weapons permits to keep their guns in their cars while dropping their children off at school.
— 2008: New law conceals from the public the list of people with concealed weapons permits. At that time, about one in 50 South Carolinians, 21 and older, had a permit to legally carry a concealed firearm. One in five state lawmakers had a permit.
— 2008: New law allows lawmakers and visitors to keep their guns in their vehicles while parked on State House grounds.
— 2006: New law says pro-gun laws cannot be voided in a state of emergency, such as Katrina.
South Carolina has the ninth-highest rate of firearm murders by state, according to FBI statistics. Just over 68 percent of murders in the state are done with a gun.