Take alcohol, add a gun and you get a volatile cocktail
So you're sitting in the Applebee's and somebody swipes a slider off your plate, or grabs a green bean crisper.
a) Ask your waiter to put the charge on that man's bill?
b) Thank the guy for extending your life expectancy?
c) Or pop a cap in that slider-swiping sidewinder?
The Legislature isn't saying "c" is the correct answer - they're just giving you that option should you choose to, let's say, stand your ground.
Last week the General Assembly passed a law that, once signed by Gov. Nikki Haley, will allow folks to carry guns into bars and restaurants. Because it is your constitutional right to protect yourself while eating good in the neighborhood.
If there is one group more concerned about this than bar owners, it is law enforcement.
There's enough craziness in bars as it is. It's a safe assumption guns will not help.
Now, some people say an armed society is a polite society. But ask the guy who was texting in a Tampa movie theater about that.
Oh, you can't - a guy who was legally carrying shot him.
The fine print
There are 229,310 concealed weapons permit holders in South Carolina, and it's a pretty safe bet that almost none of them would shoot you for texting during a movie.
They might pistol whip you, but hey - you're kind of asking for it.
Seriously, concealed weapons permit holders have been through training, have taken a test and have been deemed by the state as qualified to carry a firearm. Most of them are perfectly fine, law-abiding citizens exercising their rights.
The problem is that this law applies only to that 4.8 percent of the state's population. But police and prosecutors worry many people don't get that message from headlines that say "guns in bars OK."
The fine print: You must have a concealed weapons permit. The bar must allow it. And you cannot drink.
Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen has no problem with concealed weapons permits, and he certainly supports the 2nd Amendment. But he sees problems here because, well, he's not dumb.
"I'm just unsure how this is going to be enforced," Mullen says. "Clearly, not too many people go into bars not to drink. When you bring firearms and alcohol together, there are consequences."
Those are good points. How are bartenders supposed to know if someone is breaking the law if the gun is concealed?
If nothing else, this could lead to a spike in self-inflicted wounds. Because nothing makes you want to shoot yourself like being sober around a bunch of drunks.
Safe in public?
Scarlett Wilson, the 9th Circuit solicitor, says this law levels the field for law-abiding citizens. Frankly, she notes, thugs will pack heat whether it's legal or not.
And bar owners have the right to bar guns.
"This is about offering law-abiding citizens some protection," Wilson says.
And she is absolutely right. Assuming folks follow the law.
Look, this is not Armageddon, no matter how much the left wants to wring their hands. But it's also unnecessary and paranoid and cynical. The problem with gun politics is that there is hardly any middle ground - outside of police departments.
Mullen says his officers are explaining the law to bar owners and letting them know they have the right to post signs prohibiting guns.
The police will advise them that if they see someone carrying and drinking - which is illegal - don't argue with a guy drinking while packing. Call the cops.
Bar owners don't need this. They're being put in a position of alienating one half of their customer base or the other.
But the politicians don't care - they are pandering as bad as Senate candidate Lee Bright, who's giving away an AR-15 right now and said something earlier this month about arming teachers with machine guns. Brilliant.
Some people might says he's over-compensating, but he's just trying to win a primary.
If lawmakers really think guns are perfectly safe in public, why are there metal detectors at the entrance of the Statehouse? Doesn't it violate people's 2nd Amendment rights to not let them carry their Glock into the lobby of their own state capital?
After all, that is the one place in this state you are most likely to get robbed.
Truth is, politicians know deep down that guns and politics don't mix real well, sort of like guns and alcohol.
But that's not their problem - it's ours now.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com