Police chiefs warn SC senators not to allow people to carry guns without training

Police chiefs in South Carolina urged lawmakers Wednesday to pump the brakes on a push to make it easier to carry concealed guns in public.
Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 7:52 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 5, 2023 at 10:47 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Police chiefs in South Carolina urged lawmakers Wednesday to pump the brakes on a push to make it easier to carry concealed guns in public.

S.109 would establish what’s known as constitutional carry, or permit-less carry, which is currently in place in 26 other states. A similar bill, H.3594, passed the House of Representatives earlier this year.

Police chiefs from Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Conway, and Anderson told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Wednesday they were worried because this bill would allow people 18 and older to carry loaded, concealed guns without a permit or training.

“As law enforcement, we train, and we train, and we train some more, and we still make mistakes. With this legislation, we are asking the public no longer to be required to train and expect the same results,” Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock said.

Chiefs said they are also concerned because this bill does not address mental health, and they fear it will have unintended consequences.

“This puts our law enforcement officers in a position to fail,” Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said.

The South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association did not share those concerns about the lack of training requirement in its testimony.

But its executive director, Jarrod Bruder, said sheriffs would oppose the bill without tougher penalties added in for people who illegally possess guns.

“The sheriffs of South Carolina have very serious concerns about straight constitutional carry. If there is some mechanism that has felon in possession language in there, we could come to a neutral position,” Bruder said.

Supporters of this bill argue they should not need a permission slip from the government to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

“Constitutional carry does not change who can carry. It does not change where you can carry,” DJ Spiker, the South Carolina state director for the National Rifle Association, said.

Senators voted 3-2 along party lines to advance the constitutional carry bill to the full Senate Judiciary Committee, with Republicans in favor.

The committee also took up two other gun bills during Wednesday’s meeting.

One, S.126, would create new gun offenses, including requiring lost or stolen guns be reported to law enforcement, and would also increase penalties for people who illegally possess or sell guns, including to minors.

The other bill, S.628, which is sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Luke Rankin, R – Horry, would establish a voluntary do-not-sell firearms list so people could voluntarily waive their rights to purchase and possess guns, like if they are in a mental health crisis.

The NRA testified against both bills, while the gun advocacy group Palmetto Gun Rights testified against the voluntary waiver bill, and the Senate subcommittee opted to not advance either of them.