S.C. lawmakers vote to allow concealed guns in restaurants

CHARLESTON, South Carolina Fri Jan 24, 2014 12:32pm EST

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A measure allowing people with concealed-weapons permits in South Carolina to carry firearms into restaurants and bars that serve alcohol is headed to the desk of Governor Nikki Haley, a gun enthusiast who is expected to sign it.

The legislation passed in the state's House of Representatives on Thursday by a vote of 90-18 makes it a crime to drink alcohol while carrying a concealed weapon on those premises.

Restaurants and bars will still be allowed to post signs prohibiting firearms. In South Carolina, 229,310 people have permits to carry concealed guns.

"Those folks are law-abiding citizens who are trained," said Republican state Senator Sean Bennett, who sponsored the measure in his chamber, where it previously passed.

"Stopping in a restaurant to eat had gotten to be a problem," Bennett said. "What do they do with their weapon, how do they secure it in their vehicle, what about their safety in parking lots and streets?"

Permit holders face losing their concealed-weapon carrying rights for up to five years if they violate the law by drinking while they have their gun in a restaurant or bar.

Haley, a Republican seeking re-election this year and who last month said she got a semi-automatic pistol for Christmas, plans to sign the measure, a spokesman said.

"Governor Haley has and will always be a supporter of open-carry laws, and will sign any bill that doesn't restrict the rights of gun owners," said Haley spokesman Doug Mayer.

Critics of the legislation voiced concern about mixing guns and alcohol. Bennett said no one from the restaurant industry came forward during hearings to object to the legislation.

In interviews on Friday, several workers in restaurants across South Carolina said it would be impossible to tell if a gun-toting customer was drinking.

They said they planned to post signs barring patrons from bringing guns inside their businesses.

"Personally, I cannot believe they passed that," said Bill Barber, general manager of a bar and restaurant in Murrells Inlet, near Myrtle Beach, that caters to motorcycle riders. "I know they're not supposed to drink ... but we're surrounded by idiots in this world and some idiots carry guns."

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (10)
Sad, we should be going in the opposite direction restricting access to guns, instead of making them more available.

Jan 24, 2014 12:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
To add, within a year there will be some shooting from someone having a gun at a bar, and the blood will not only be on the killers hands, but on the legislators that passed this stupid law along with the governor as well.

Jan 24, 2014 12:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Eideard wrote:
The sort of idjit law I would expect from SC. As much as they blather about liberty – apparently they don’t include a provision for business owners to ban weapons on their own. An option many comparably silly states thought to include.

Or did Reuters not think to ask the question?

Jan 24, 2014 2:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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