A bill that would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry their guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol is now headed to the governor.
S.308 cleared the South Carolina House in a 90-18 vote Thursday. Under the legislation, a person carrying a gun would not be allowed to drink alcohol. A property owner could also ban the weapons in their business, so long as they post a sign.
“A criminal pays no attention to the law to begin with,” State Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens said. “What it is designed to do is to allow… a law-abiding concealed weapons permit holder, who has jumped through all the hoops and go through all the training, to defend themselves.”
The vote came a week after the Senate passed the bill 39-3. All but two of the 21 combined “no” votes were from Democrats.
“When (a person) violates the law on the road, there’s someone to catch them,” said State Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Six Mile. There’s nobody to catch someone that violates the law when that someone carries a concealed weapon into a restaurant and drinks.”
State Rep. Walt McLeod, D-Little Mountain, made it clear he was a reluctant “yes” vote, questioning the wisdom of the bill. “Booze, beer, and wine is powerful stuff. It’s like sex. It’s really powerful stuff that causes people to do things that they ordinarily don’t do.”
Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to sign the bill, although her spokesman would not commit on Thursday, telling Charleston Post & Courier reporter Schuyler Kropf that the governor “will sign any bill that doesn’t restrict rights of guns owners.”
The legislation puts a stiff penalty in place for a person who violates the law, setting a $2,000 fine and up to 2 years in jail for carrying in a restaurant against the owner’s wishes or drinking while carrying. A violator would also have their CWP suspended for five years.
The bill also does away with an eight hour minimum training requirement, instead allowing instructors more leeway on how much time they need for the course.
The bill also makes it easier for retired military and law enforcement members to get concealed permits by showing proof of their training.
South Carolina is one of only two states with an outright ban on firearms in establishments that serve alcohol (although many states leave it up to their municipal governments and others classify “bars” and “restaurants” differently than the Palmetto State). The other is Montana, according to the concealed carry information group Workman Consulting. North Carolina eliminated a similar ban last year.
Many bar owners across the state say they will likely post signs barring concealed weapons. “We have a sign on our front door saying we don’t allow people with firearms,” said Lenin Juarez, the general manager at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Greenville. “And I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Others said they would allow customers to carry. “The people voted and the laws have to be respected,” Liberty Taproom and Grill manager George Miranda said. “Southerners have been responsible in the past with their guns and I don’t think anything’s going to change.”