Elected officials justifiably oppose arbitrary gun restrictions that wouldn’t make people safer. But responsible lawmakers also are obligated to oppose expansions of gun rights that are likely to put people in jeopardy.
A good example of that is the proposal introduced in the state Senate that would allow South Carolina’s concealed weapons permit holders to carry firearmas into restaurants and bars. The bill is one of a dozen that has been introduced in the S.C. Legislature aimed at expanding or protecting the right to bear arms, but it has to rank among the most unnecessary and potentially harmful bills of this nature.
The measure is touted as a way to give more freedom to “the good guys,” those who are responsible and do what it takes to get a concealed weapons permit, as state Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, puts it. But the bill also would open up all types of businesses that serve alcohol – everything from strip clubs to houses of high cuisine – to allowing concealed weapons.
The bill, as written, would not allow customers with weapons to drink while inside such establishments. But some proponents of the bill say they would like to change the wording to allow a gun holder to consume a limited amount of alcohol.
Good luck to business owners in trying to keep anyone from drinking in a bar or restaurant. How are owners supposed to identify which customers are carrying weapons?
We are familiar with stories where an armed citizen prevents a crime from being committed in a public place by an armed criminal. In some cases these stories are real; often they are imagined hypothetical scenarios.
We hope people have enough imagination to also envision scenarios where things go wrong – where innocent people are shot in the crossfire, where “good guys” get drunk and shoot someone in an argument, where someone takes a gun away from its owner and uses it to shoot up the place.
In other words, its hard to envision anything good coming from mixing alcohol and guns.
As Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, noted during Senate testimony, this debate already has been hashed out. When lawmakers first allowed permit holders to carry weapons, they excluded businesses that serve alcohol and school property as part of a compromise that allowed the original bill to pass.
The current bill reneges on that compromise.
And while bars and restaurants would be allowed to post a sign prohibiting weapons, they would risk a backlash from customers who wanted to carry guns on the premises. It’s unfair to subject owners to that pressure.
We can’t always assume that the “good guys” can shoot straight, especially after they’ve had a few drinks. While permit holders already can legally carry their weapons in most situations, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol ought to be off limits.