Bill allowing concealed weapons in restaurants passes S.C. House
COLUMBIA - A law that allows for concealed weapons permit holders to take their weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol and bars easily passed the South Carolina House of Representatives on Thursday.
AT A GLANCE:
If the governor signs the bill into law, you can be barred from bringing a weapon into a restaurant or bar even if you're a concealed weapons permit holder, if an establishment posts a sign prohibiting firearms. If you break the law, you could face up to two years in prison and a $2,000 fine. Your permit would also be revoked for five years.
As a permit holder, you must have consent to carry your firearm into places like churches, medical facilities or a home.
You still can't bring firearms into federal buildings, courtrooms, government meetings or polling places.
Establishments would have to post signs barring firearms indoors.
If a bar or restaurant owner spots a patron with a firearm, the patron could be asked to leave or the owner could press charges for carrying a firearm into a posted establishment.
The law streamlined the application process for a permit, allowing for online applications.
The 90-18 vote came amid some backlash in the Lowcountry, as many bar and restaurant owners and managers were finding out about the new law. Restaurants that want to keep firearms out of their establishments will have to post a sign that says those guns are not welcome.
Many restaurant managers in Charleston have been greeted by yellow cards labeled, "No Lead with My Drink Please" in protest. If they hope to stop the law, they'll now have to lobby Gov. Nikki Haley - who has a concealed weapons permit.
During Thursday's session, some members of the House asked members to reconsider, or at least delay the decision.
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Rep. Walton McLeod, D-Newberry, was among those who called for a delay, arguing members of the House needed to be patient and wait until lawmakers meet again Tuesday. McLeod also asked that the bill be discussed during the last day of the session in June. He was voted down each time.
"I realized that a large majority of the members were in support of the bill," McLeod said. "You can't get anybody to defer or postpone, stall, where there's that much of ... a majority in favor of the bill."
McLeod said he wanted House members to return home before voting on the measure. Time spent away from the Statehouse, he said, could shed some light on whether they were making the right decision and how their constituents felt about the bill.
McLeod ultimately voted in favor of the bill, and said time will tell if lawmakers made the right move.
"The jury is out on whether it's a good or bad thing," McLeod said.
Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, who introduced a similar measure in the past, said he can understand why the thought of having a person armed at a bar can alarm folks. But he expects concealed weapon permit holders will follow the law. He does not support people drinking while armed.
Meanwhile, William Hamilton - who passed out fliers around Charleston alerting businesses to the proposed measure - called on Haley to delay signing the bill until businesses could acquire signs explaining they don't want concealed weapons inside. The law goes into effect as soon as Haley signs it.
Hamilton said the impact will be felt immediately, especially in a tourism city such as Charleston.
"Visitors coming to town are not going to have any idea what the absence of a sign means," Hamilton said. For bar and tavern owners, "this is not a headache they ever wanted."
Staff reporter Jeremy Borden contributed to this story.
Editor's note: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly identified Rep. Walton McLeod. The Post and Courier regrets the error.