A bill now in a legislative compromise committee would allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry a gun into an establishment serving alcohol.
Senate bill 308 passed in the Senate and was amended by the House earlier this year. It will be taken up once again in conference committee in January, where primary sponsor, Summerville Republican Sen. Sean Bennett, said he will renew his push for passage.
Likewise, the bill’s primary opponent in the Senate, Richland Democrat John Scott, vows to stand in its way again in 2014.
Neither the House nor Senate versions allowed the CWP holder to drink while carrying their weapon. Both versions also allow individual businesses to ban concealed weapons with a clearly-posted sign.
In June, Scott filed amendments to the bill in a successful attempt to stall it from becoming law. Scott said his opposition is founded in keeping guns out of potentially lethal situations.
“It’s so easy to get in a confrontation with somebody when under normal circumstances you’d just leave him and either call the police or just not get involved, but if you’ve got a weapon, you’ve become the bad guy,” Scott said.
Bennett called the bill a “logical expansion” of current concealed weapon permit holders’ rights.
“If you look at the criminal numbers of crimes committed by conceal weapons permit holders, it’s minuscule … These are law-abiding citizens,” Bennett said. “As you walk down the street, you’re already walking by people … who are carrying for their protection and I think this a logical expansion of that … We’re not opening it up to unregulated ownership and usage. I think it makes a lot of sense.”
Despite Scott’s defiance, Bennett said the bill had bipartisan support and is not about weakening gun control.
“It’s not just what bad can happen in a restaurant; it’s what bad can happen, how can people protect themselves and their families on the streets,” Bennett said.