COLUMBIA -- A House panel will take up a bill today that would allow anyone who can legally own a firearm in the state to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

The move to loosen gun laws comes in the wake of the Jan. 8 Arizona shootings that killed six and left U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, as well as a Dec. 14 incident in Florida where an armed man threatened school board members before he was fatally shot by security.

But rather than seeking to tighten gun restrictions, as some Democrats have urged President Barack Obama to do on the federal level, South Carolina lawmakers are looking at how to make it easier to carry weapons for protection.

A House panel last month rejected efforts to give public officials more freedom to carry guns to protect themselves because gun rights advocates said they shouldn't be singled out for special treatment. Instead, that panel now will consider doing away with the permit requirements for carrying concealed weapons. The measure has 36 of the House's 123 members signed on as supporters and few vocal opponents.

"People have a constitutional right by the Second Amendment to keep and bear, not just keep, but bear arms for self protection," said Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, who introduced the bill.