Our view

Give some thought to gun safety

February 5, 2014 

  • Lawmakers need real solutions to gun violence, not just more privileges for gun owners.

OK, we get it. South Carolina’s politicians, Democrat and Republican, in the Legislature and in Congress, appreciate the right of Americans to bear arms.

That became abundantly clear (as if it were not already clear enough) with the bipartisan support of the recent bill to allow South Carolinians who are licensed to carry concealed weapons to carry their guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. The bill, which is certain to get Gov. Nikki Haley’s enthusiastic signature, is, we think, both unnecessary and potentially hazardous.

Despite the assurances that all licensed carriers are law-abiding citizens well trained in handling their guns, we see room for mischief and mistakes. And despite the law’s prohibition against armed customers consuming alcohol, that, too, is a distinct possibility.

It seems clear that this legislation was designed, in part, to expand the rights of gun owners beyond a boundary that had been drawn in the name of public safety. Supporters of the bill contend that the boundary was both illegitimate and an inconvenience for gun-toters who have had to keep their firearms locked in their cars when they go to an establishment serving alcohol.

The measure also seems designed, in part, to reiterate the message that the only way to confront gun violence is with more guns and gun-carrying citizens.

But surely not every politician in the state believes that is the only way to shield the public from gun violence. Even in the so-called restaurant-carry bill, lawmakers included the token ban on drinking while carrying. Ostensibly they realize that guns and alcohol can lead to trouble.

We wish that some of those politicians, state lawmakers in particular, would devote as much time to coming up with real solutions to gun violence as they do to proving their fealty to the Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association. No one (including President Obama) is proposing to take people’s guns away from them.

But is there no common ground between the extremes of repealing the 2nd Amendment and obstructing any and all reasonable efforts to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from possessing guns and using them to kill people – as one mentally ill individual recently did at a shopping mall in Maryland?

Two proposals surfaced in Congress in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School: Require background checks for most gun sales, including those at gun shows, and limit the size of ammo magazines. Both failed to advance, shot down by the contingent that believes that any effort to regulate guns is a step down the slippery slope to gun confiscation.

Why not require extensive training in handling and safely storing firearms for prospective gun owners? The restaurant-carry bill actually watered down the training required to get a concealed weapons permit.

South Carolinians are not safer because of the passage of the restaurant-carry bill. We can envision no scenario in which public safety has been enhanced by allowing people to carry guns in bars and restaurants.

We’d like to believe that some lawmakers would be willing to work to find real solutions to gun violence and ways to keep guns out of the hands of unbalanced people. But apparently in the current political climate, that is too much to ask.

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