Gov. Nikki Haley would allow concealed weapons in her bar or restaurant - if she owned one - under the concealed-carry bill passed by the Legislature that she intends to sign soon.
"I don't have a problem with people carrying anywhere," she said Tuesday in Charleston, pointing to the law's key provision that holders of a concealed-weapons permit can't consume alcohol while armed.
"You're not allowing people with guns to drink," she said. "You're allowing people who normally have their guns to bring them into the restaurant when they normally would not be able to."
She added that she would post a "concealed weapons permitted inside" sign at her establishment if she were a South Carolina business-owner.
Haley said she plans to sign the bill but is still waiting for it to reach her desk through the ratification path that it still has to travel with lawmakers.
Haley's announced Democratic opponent this November, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden, said he too supports the legislation, and that responsible gun ownership is not the worry.
"They're not the problem, and it doesn't concern me if they're in an Applebee's or a Chick-fil-A," he said. Applebee's serves alcohol while Chick-fil-A does not.
Haley has a concealed weapons permit, while the Democratic Party said Sheheen does not have a concealed weapons permit.
While Haley waits to sign the bill, bars and restaurants around Charleston have been slow to react, with many apparently waiting for the governor's pen before posting which way they will go - guns allowed or guns prohibited.
Brian Truex, who operates the business CWP Compliance in Myrtle Beach and which provides "guns allowed" and "guns not allowed" signs for state businesses, said Tuesday that most of the orders he has seen so far have come from bars in the Columbia and Myrtle Beach areas.
Very few of his recent queries have come from the Charleston region, he said.
"I pre-ordered 1,500 last week and they're more than half gone," he said Tuesday of the "no guns allowed" version. He sells them for about $24 each.
Under provisions of the law, which is similar to those in other states, people with state-issued concealed-weapons permits cannot consume alcohol and still be covered by the law's protections. Restaurants and bars could opt out, however, by posting a sign in their window that says guns are not allowed inside.
The law covering display of the signs is very specific. For instance, one section in the books states that the signs must measure 8 inches wide by 12 inches tall, and contain the words "NO CONCEALABLE WEAPONS ALLOWED" in "black one-inch tall uppercase type at the bottom of the sign and centered between the lateral edges of the sign."
Another requirement is that the sign must contain a black silhouette of a handgun inside a circle 7 inches in diameter with a diagonal line that runs from the lower left to the upper right at a 45-degree angle.
Truex said he expects advocates on both sides of the law to be sticklers about how the signs are presented, since the issue is so emotionally charged.
"Size matters," he said. "It's extremely specific."
Meanwhile, the Charleston restaurant industry is taking a wait-and-see approach. A spokeswoman for the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association said it is up to the individual business to decide whether it plans to allow concealed weapons on the property.
"What are we going to do, are we going to police it?" Kathy Britzius, the association's executive director, said during an interview this week. "It's a real difficult thing for us to have an opinion on. It has to be controlled by our members. We don't want to make any statement about it. It's that it's their own choice."
While waiting for the bill to be signed, some area law enforcement officials suspect that when it is enacted, the law probably won't affect much about how they respond to a situation.
Mount Pleasant Police Chief Carl Ritchie said his officers already are trained to expect many variables that could involve weapons, be it knives, handguns or something else, when they respond to a call.
"It's part of the training that guns could be around," he said Tuesday, adding that the law just adds to the list two more areas where concealed weapons might be carried.
For anyone in a bar or restaurant with a legal concealed weapon, Ritchie added, "You still have to go through the training class; you still have to have the permit with you."
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551
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