COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina House passed a bill on Thursday that would eliminate the need to get a concealed weapons permit to carry guns in public in the state.
An unexpected move rewrote a bill that would have allowed South Carolina to accept concealed weapons permits from Georgia. The change caused the normally quick debate in the House to grind to a halt for a few hours before the bill passed 90-18.
Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, said his bill is a good compromise because people would still have to keep their guns hidden from view in public but would not have to go through hours of training for a constitutional right.
"I firmly believe in the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Literally," said Pitts, a former police officer.
The South Carolina Sheriffs' Association hasn't had time to review the bill but generally opposes allowing people to carry guns in public without training or safety education, executive director Jarrod Bruder said.
The group opposed a Senate bill last year that would have allowed guns to be carried openly in public. That bill died in a committee.
Opponents of the bill said the hours of training currently required to get a concealed weapons permit is important to make sure people stay safe. Also, because people who get guns as gifts or who buy them in private transactions like at gun shows don't have to undergo background checks, that means some people could carry guns who haven't passed a criminal check or a mental health check, said Rep. James Smith.
"Do we want to add a number of untrained people carrying weapons? I don't think that is going to make our state safer," said Smith, D-Columbia.
The House bill keeps the concealed weapons permit program for people that want to get a permit that other states will accept, Pitts said. After one last routine vote, the new bill will be on its way to the other chamber.