COLUMBIA — Score one for gun rights, sign makers and quizzical glances from tourists.
South Carolina senators passed a bill Thursday that would allow those with concealed weapons permits to carry their guns into restaurants and bars. Senators made several technical changes, which are expected to be adopted by the House next week and sent to Gov. Nikki Haley soon after. A Haley spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, who supports the measure, said in an interview that he knows there are many potential problems associated with patrons carrying guns into restaurants and bars. Under the law, restaurants could opt out by posting a sign in their window that says guns are not allowed in the restaurant. He expects many restaurant owners will take that route.
“There’s going to be some tourist shock to this,” Hutto said of those scanning the menu and finding a large sign banning guns. “I think you’re going to see some gun owners … boycott some restaurants that put the sign up. There’s going to be some fallout both ways.”
Law enforcement and restaurant owners largely didn’t want the law, said Hutto.
“There are multiple concerns to this but in the end we as a state have always thought responsible gun ownership is not a bad thing,” he said.
Dozens of other states already have passed similar laws.
About 200,000 South Carolinians, including Haley, hold concealed-carry permits. The governor took to social media recently to post a photo of the new pistol she received as a Christmas present.
Under the proposed law, anyone carrying guns into bars and restaurants would be prohibited from drinking alcohol.
Several people asked legislators to change that, saying they should be able to have, for example, a glass of wine with their meal.
The Senate’s vote sends it back to the House, which approved the measure last year 100-12.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.