It didn't take long - three days into the new session - for the usually slow-moving Senate to pass a bill that would relax the state's gun laws.

But in a state with an annual tax-free gun weekend, and pending legislation that would prohibit health care providers from talking to their patients about the hazards of firearm ownership, it should be no surprise.

Assuming the Senate and the House, which passed a similar bill last year, can come to terms, people with permits to carry concealed weapons soon will be able to take them into restaurants and bars - a move the restaurant industry and law enforcement both oppose.

Such laws vary from state to state, with many saying no weapons in businesses where more than 50 percent of profits are from the sale of alcohol. Others have no such restriction.

Some states, but not all, outlaw weapons in such places as churches and synagogues, schools, hospitals, courts of law, public parks, sports events, parades, polling places and riverboats for gambling.

But ironically, legislators in almost every state have outlawed guns in government buildings or at meetings of legislators and other elected officials.

So it's one thing to carry a gun into a place where people are consuming alcohol - perhaps large quantities of alcohol. And it's another thing altogether to let someone with a gun into the halls of government where legislators themselves assemble.

If the Senate's bill becomes law, it would remain illegal for someone carrying a gun to consume alcohol. So the risk in allowing licensed people to take concealed weapons into bars isn't so much that an intoxicated gun owner will provoke a shooting. It's that a drunken patron will get out of hand and, instead of being escorted out by a big bouncer, will be shot by a well-meaning patron packing heat.

Or bystanders will be shot by mistake. In December, 32-year-old April Infinger was killed by a stray bullet while she was inside the Moonshine Saloon in Goose Creek. The suspect wasn't even in the bar.

Under the proposed law, restaurants would be allowed to post a sign saying guns are not welcome. But doing that has its own liabilities - either angering gun rights customers or scaring off customers all too familiar with frequent public shootings across the country.

Who would have thought that it would be dangerous to go to an afternoon movie in Tampa, Fla.? But a retired police officer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death last week of a 43-year-old man who annoyed him by sending text messages during the movie.

Maybe it's too much to hope that gun control advocates and gun rights advocates will ever see eye-to-eye. That will take a lot of time, effort and experience if it ever is to happen.

But the Legislature has a lot of significant issues to deal with - improving government transparency, ethics reform and funding for road and bridge repairs, to name a few.

It should focus on legislation that will make South Carolina a better place to live and work. And it's difficult to see how toting guns into bars does that.