COLUMBIA — A House panel advanced a bill Wednesday that would allow South Carolinians with permits to carry concealed weapons to take guns into restaurants and bars, removing proposed Senate restrictions that would have barred guns after midnight and in areas dedicated to serving alcohol.
The state Senate voted 33-5 last month to approve the bill. But it proposed to prohibit carrying guns into the businesses after midnight, and entering and remaining in areas of bars and restaurants dedicated to serving alcohol.
Those restrictions were a compromise for senators concerned that people might carry guns into bars late at night. But the House panel voted to remove the restrictions, calling them arbitrary and vague rules that would be difficult to enforce and could lead to law-abiding citizens unknowingly breaking the law.
The purpose of the bill is to allow responsible gun owners to carry their guns into restaurants to have dinner, instead of leaving their weapons in their vehicles, supporters have said.
If the bill becomes law, gun owners would not be able to consume alcohol while carrying a concealed weapon, and business owners would be able to post signs banning guns and also could ask patrons who carry guns to leave.
The House panel voted in favor of the bill after hearing from gun rights’ advocates who said they should not be restricted from carrying guns into bars and restaurants after midnight – when many crimes happen.
Anthony Roulette, state liaison for the National Rifle Association, said people allowed to carry concealed weapons do not “suddenly at midnight” turn “irresponsible and lawless.”
Sylvie Dessau of Columbia opposed the bill, saying gun owners are not the only ones affected.
Dessau, a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, said she has received letters from restaurant workers concerned about patrons carrying concealed weapons. “What happens if another patron gets drunk and the gun-carrying person feels threatened?” she asked. “That, I think, is an issue.”
The full House Judiciary Committee must approve the bill before it heads to the House floor for debate. If the bill passes the House, it then would return to the Senate for a vote on the changes made by the House.