Legislature OKs guns in bars, restaurants

Personal Injuries

By: The Associated Press January 23, 2014

COLUMBIA (AP) — People with concealed weapon permits are a signature away from being able to bring their gun into a restaurant or bar in South Carolina, if there’s no sign against it.

The House’s 90-18 vote Thursday sends the bill to Gov. Nikki Haley, who’s certain to sign it. The Republican, who previously told voters she has a permit, last month posted on Facebook the Beretta she got for Christmas.

“Gov. Haley has and will always be a supporter of open carry laws and will sign any bill that doesn’t restrict the rights of guns owners,” said her spokesman, Doug Mayer.

The bill makes it illegal for people to drink alcohol while carrying. Anyone caught would have the permit revoked for five years, plus face up to two years in prison and a $2,000 fine. Businesses can post a sign barring concealed weapons.

Opponents say mixing guns and alcohol invites problems.

Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Six Mile, said he’s also concerned about the resulting confusion, if responding law enforcement officers can’t distinguish between the permit holder and the bad guy.

“I’m not wanting us to create a gun fight at the OK bar by this legislation,” he said.

But Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, said the bill allows law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves and their family while eating dinner, in case a criminal comes in and starts shooting.

“I’m absolutely not worried about a CWP holder. I am worried about the criminals who go in,” said Pitts, a retired law enforcement officer. “I, in no way, want to prohibit an individual from being able to defend themselves, especially after they’ve jumped through the legal hoops” to secure a permit.

As of last week, more than 229,310 people in South Carolina held concealed weapons permits, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.

Other parts of the law are designed to reduce the paperwork for SLED, thereby speeding up the application process for people who’ve completed the requirements for a permit.

People can apply for a permit online, allowing SLED to respond electronically. The agency can also use the person’s driver’s license photo for the permit.