COLUMBIA — A Democratic legislator said Thursday that South Carolina needs to expand gun rights in reaction to the shooting rampage in Arizona, but gun-rights activists defeated his proposal, saying it put politicians on a pedestal.
Rep. Ted Vick’s bill would have allowed elected and appointed officials who hold concealed carry permits to take a gun anywhere. It would add them to the list of on-duty judges and prosecutors already exempt from laws limiting where permit holders can carry guns, such as public buildings, bars and businesses that post “No Concealable Weapons Allowed.”
“Something needs to be done. I would hate to be in a crowd giving a speech and watch my constituents being shot because somebody’s deranged or mentally ill,” said Vick, D-Chesterfield, who has a concealed carry permit.
The state’s continued budget cuts to social services could ignite a dangerous situation, he said: “They’re looking for somebody to blame. They will be hurting. What are we going to do to protect the public?”
Vick said he introduced the bill in response to the Jan. 8 assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, and a Dec. 14 school board shooting in Florida.
In Tucson, a gunman killed six people and injured 13 others outside a supermarket where Giffords was meeting with constituents. School board members in Florida were held at gunpoint but were unhurt when the gunman fired at them before killing himself.
While lawmakers elsewhere react by trying to limit gun rights, “I want the public to know South Carolina believes in extending them,” said Vick, an Army National Guard officer, whose brother is a school board chairman.
A five-member House subcommittee unanimously rejected his bill after gun-rights activists complained that politicians should not get special privileges.
Sharon Clark of Irmo said the bill essentially says politicians’ lives are more important than their constituents.
“When government officials don’t obey the same laws they require citizens to obey, that constitutes tyranny,” she said.
Robert Butler, vice president of GrassRoots GunRights, proposed amending the bill to extend the privilege to all permit holders. He called gun control laws silly because only law-abiding citizens follow them.
“If they’re going to go out and violate God’s laws to kill, main or rob people, you really think they won’t do so because we say they can’t have a gun to do these things?” he said. “Giving special privileges to politicians and making the rest of us second-class citizens is wrong.”
Vick said he had no such intent. He said the activists should have seen his proposal as a first step, rather than fight it. He pledged to introduce a bill extending to all permit holders the ability to carry a concealed gun anywhere.
“We’re not better than anybody we serve,” Vick said. “The purpose is to protect the public and help public safety.”