February 9, 2016

SC House votes to allow concealed weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol

South Carolinians may soon be able to carry a gun into restaurants that serve alcohol.

Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens) has pushed for the change for several years (File)

The state House of Representatives Wednesday passed legislation by an 83-7 vote that would allow a person with a concealed weapons permit (CWP) to bring their gun inside any restaurant with the business’s permission. Right now, state law does not allow weapons in a restaurant that serves alcohol.

“Currently you can’t go into an Applebee’s or a place like that if you have a concealed weapons permit,” Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens) said. “You have to remove your firearm before you go in, sit down, and have a dinner.”

There are some restrictions in the law. It would be up to the individual business to decide whether or not to allow guns on its property. You also could not drink alcohol while carrying a concealed weapon. A person who violates these sections faces a $2,000 penalty and up to two years in jail.

Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) was one of the few who opposed the bill, saying the Trayvon Martin case in Florida demonstrates a need to be cautious with “right-to-carry” laws. “We really need to re-think it at this point,” he said, “We really need to take our time with any issues dealing with weapons.”

The amendment was included in a larger bill that repeals a state law requiring a license in order to sell or transfer a pistol. Supporters say a national gun check system makes state licenses unnecessary.

Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) said a person should have the right to protect themselves. “We’re more vulnerable in a restaurant that serves alcohol because the ‘bad guys’ understand there are not concealed weapons in there.”

The bill will likely head to the Senate next week.

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