S.C. lawmaker favors legalizing open carry after deadly Colorado shooting spree

Rifles and other firearms are displayed at a gun show in Ladson. The recent shooting spree in Colorado in which three people and the gunman were killed has raised questions about legalizing open carry in South Carolina.

A conservative Upstate lawmaker in favor of allowing guns to be carried in public says the confusion over a 911 call in Colorado prior to a deadly shooting spree hasn’t dampened his support for legalizing it in South Carolina.

State Sen. Lee Bright echoed the position of the National Rifle Association in saying the more law-abiding citizens who are armed in public, the less chance there is for mass killings.

“It’s not the gun, it’s the individual,” said Bright, R-Spartanburg. “If more people are armed then these mass shootings will stop because people will shoot back.”

Colorado authorities are taking a new look at how to handle responses to guns-in-public calls after a dispatcher allegedly underestimated the severity of a call on Halloween in Colorado Springs.

Resident Naomi Bettis told The Denver Post that she called 911 after seeing her neighbor, 33-year-old Noah Harpham, armed with a rifle in the street. She said a dispatcher explained that Colorado allows public handling of firearms and no officer was sent to investigate until after she called back to report a bicyclist had been shot.

Harpham killed three people before he was killed in a shootout with police.

South Carolina is halfway to adopting an open carry bill in which individuals would not need a permit to carry a gun with them in public. The measure passed the House last session but still must be adopted by the Senate where it faces some opposition.

Supporters say the bill is good for responsible gun owners. They would still have to keep their weapons hidden from view, but they would not have to take a gun training course for what many consider a constitutional right.

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Some Democrats and police have questioned the appropriateness of the bill because it allows someone to legally carry a weapon without first having to take any training. State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said he would oppose the measure, saying the public consensus in South Carolina “is moving in the opposite direction” of expanded gun rights, with more people favoring limitations such as stricter background checks.

The proposal being discussed in South Carolina would not allow the public display of weapons as openly as in Colorado. It would primarily do away with the requirement to complete a training course and obtain a permit to carry a firearm.

Bright isn’t optimistic that any gun-related bill is going to be priority in 2016 as the Statehouse grapples with road-funding concerns and a response to the historic flooding and damage this year.

“I think this is a gas tax session,” he said.

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