PICKENS COUNTY—South Carolina residents could soon be allowed to carry firearms openly without a permit.
A State Senate Judiciary subcommittee passed legislation that would eliminate the current requirement of concealment and allows any legal gun owner to carry a firearm, without obtaining a Concealed Weapons Permit.
The bill, which has seen several key amendments according to Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens), heads back to the Judiciary Committee where its fate will be determined.
“They have adopted some amendments but (the legislation) still has some serious drafting errors,” Martin said. “It raised questions about the current CWP laws, and I asked them to really make sure that any bill they reported out did not repeal or impede our CWP law. I think they’ve addressed that in their amendments.”
Martin, the Judiciary chairman, said he anticipates opposition.
“I’m sure there is going to be some opposition to it,” Martin said. “We do have some anti-gun members in the Senate, but we had that when we passed our first CWP law back in the 1990s.”
Martin said South Carolina currently allows open carry in regards to fishing and hunting.
“Vermont has had a long standing open carry policy, and what folks need to understand about that is that it’s pretty similar to what we have now with regards to someone who is hunting or fishing,” Martin said. “Hunters and fishermen are aware of the fact that while you are going to or coming from hunting or fishing, we’re an open carry state in that regard.”
Martin said he does not foresee a drastic change if the new law were to be adopted.
“If we keep our CWP law, I don’t anticipate there being that many people openly carrying simply because it’s permitted,” Martin said. “Our CWP law is widely accepted, and I don’t believe that many people will opt to openly carry.”
The senator does believe, however, the new legislation would have an impact on local businesses.
“I think there could be a backlash that may very well inhibit the acceptance of the CWP permit holders into a lot of private properties,” Martin said. “A lot of property owners or businesses that have previously accepted CWP carriers on their premises may very well not be accepting of open carry.”
“They may just say, in the interest of my business I’m going to ban all weapons unless it is a commissioned law enforcement officer,” Martin said.
The next step, according to Martin, is to address the amendments.
“I’ve got to look at all the amendments that will be offered to make sure that our CWP law remains intact,” Martin said.
“I don’t believe open carry would be widespread, and it would have a negative impact on businesses,” Martin continued. “Will we see people walking down the street with guns on their sides? I don’t think we’ll have any more than we do now with our hunters and fishers that carry guns on their sides. I really don’t.