South Carolina lawmakers are close to loosening gun laws after long debate

South Carolina lawmakers appear close to approving a bill that would allow anyone who can legally own a gun to carry the weapon openly.

The proposal includes stiffer penalties for people who repeatedly carry guns in places where they would still be banned like schools or courthouses or commit crimes while armed, whether they use the weapon or not. It also would provide millions of dollars for free gun training across the state needed to get a concealed weapons permit for any adult who wants it.

The House, which had been the sticking point for the proposal, voted 86-33, with most Republicans voting for it and Democrats against it. The Senate agreeably discussed the bill at the same time, but it delayed a possible vote to take up changes on how to elect judges.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill, allowing South Carolina to join nearly 30 other states that allow open carry of guns without a permit, including nearly every state in the Deep South.

The House and Senate passed different versions of the bill this year, with a number of Republican House members unhappy about another proposal that would add punishment for people who don’t take the training and are convicted of not following the rules about where guns are banned.

But a conference committee of three House members and three senators agreed Tuesday to much of the Senate’s language, conceding the bill likely wouldn’t pass the Senate without it.

“You don’t have the votes, you don’t have the bill,” said Republican Rep. Micah Caskey of Springdale.

Most of the compromise leaned toward the Senate, although House members insisted the committee remove allowing legislators to be able to carry a gun nearly anywhere they want any time.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey reminded House members several times the reason the bill hasn’t passed earlier is supportive senators didn’t have the votes without the extra penalties, especially for people who repeatedly carry guns where they aren’t allowed to do so.




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