Final vote expected Thursday on state open carry bill

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 11:06 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - State lawmakers are expected to hold a final vote Thursday on a bill that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to openly carry their guns.

Senators voted 25-21 against the so-called constitutional carry amendment after several hours of debate on Wednesday. It would have allow anyone who can legally own a gun to carry it anywhere the weapons are legally allowed.

Senators then continued to debate the House-passed bill that would allow anyone who passes the background check and a roughly eight-hour course to get a South Carolina concealed weapons permit to carry their pistol in the open.

Republicans argue this only changes how a person can carry a firearm and protects people who may accidentally expose their weapon in public.

Democrats worry this law makes it easy for people to intimidate others and could potentially put minority gun owners at risk if they choose to open-carry.

Senators did change some parts of the bill, so it is expected to return to the House for another vote. If the House agrees with the changes and passes the Senate version, it would go to Gov. Henry McMaster’s desk. The governor has said he will sign the bill.

Gun rights groups have made “open carry” a priority for years and put extra pressure on senators after Republicans won an extra three seats in the 2020 general election.

Opponents of the Open Carry Bill include a number of current law enforcement leaders including State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, and police chiefs and sheriffs in some of the state’s largest areas.

South Carolina is one of only five states without some type of Open Carry law. The others are California, Florida, Illinois and New York.

Copyright 2021 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.