Don’t eliminate gun training course

The state of South Carolina wouldn’t dream of allowing untrained, unlicensed people drive cars on its roads. Why would state lawmakers consider letting untrained, unlicensed people legally carry concealed weapons?

Yet that is exactly what Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, has proposed. Pitts, one of the more avid gun rights advocates in the Legislature, has sponsored a House-passed plan to end the requirement for residents to pass a state-run course before they can be licensed to carry a concealed weapon.

Pitts’ rationale? The course is too time consuming and expensive for law-abiding citizens with no criminal record or record of mental illness. Besides, a lot of people don’t like being on a government list of any kind.

But even a gun advocate such as Pitts should realize he has gone a step too far when law enforcement officers uniformly oppose him. Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the S.C. Sheriffs’ Association, said the training requirement is absolutely necessary.

“Folks show up at these concealed weapons courses who have never shot a gun before – they literally don’t know where to put the bullets or where to point the gun,” Bruder said.

That’s a law enforcement nightmare: untrained, gun-toting novices opening fire on a crowded street. As Bruder notes, it’s not a matter of gun rights; it’s a matter of public safety.

For the record, the concealed weapons courses last eight hours or less and cost only about $60. So, the courses aren’t too long or too expensive.

The courses cover basic gun safety, gun handling, target acquisition, marksmanship, safe gun storage and the state’s laws on self--defense and use of deadly force. Those who pass get a state permit so law enforcement officers will know whether they are licensed to carry a gun.

Obviously, many who take the course already know the fundamentals of handling a gun. But requiring them to go through the paces to get a state permit is not asking too much.

The course, however, could be a lifesaver – literally – for people who don’t know anything about gun safety.

Pitts argues that many otherwise law-abiding citizens now illegally carry concealed weapons because “they just don’t want to have to fool with government bureaucracy to exercise their Second Amendment rights.” Well, many people no doubt drive without a license for similar reasons.

That doesn’t mean we should eliminate the requirement that people have driver’s licenses. And it’s also a lame argument for getting rid of the gun course requirement.

Simply put, eliminating the training requirement for gun permits would make South Carolina a more dangerous place. Even those without the slightest experience with guns could carry one, and law enforcement officers would have no way of distinguishing who is qualified to carry a gun and who isn’t.

There has been no shortage of dumb ideas to emerge from the state Legislature over the years, but this ranks as one of the dumbest. We hope the Senate has sense enough to let it die.

In summary

Some of those who take the state course required to get a concealed weapons permit hardly know one end of a gun from another.