CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Some of state’s top law enforcement officials and law makers are debating the future of an open carry bill in South Carolina. Some say it’s time to adopt the new law while others fear it could lead to a spike in deadly and violent crime.
The current version of the bill would allow for guns to be carried in the open and shown off in public. Currently, South Carolina is only one of five states without an open carry law.
City of Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds says while he supports Second Amendment Rights, he believes passing an open carry law would make policing harder for law enforcement.
“It makes it easier for criminals to carry handguns despite the current rise in homicides, aggravated assaults, gang violence and other violent crime involving firearms,” says Chief Reynolds.
Chief Reynolds spoke to lawmakers during a Senate Subcommittee meeting Tuesday morning saying the Charleston Police Department had just a handful of officer involved shootings over a ten year period. Since last December, there have been three such shootings and he believes impacts go beyond a rise in crime.
“I believe it hurts our businesses by making us less inviting to many residents and visitors and I know many people who will not come downtown,” says Chief Reynolds.
Chief Reynolds isn’t alone in opposing the proposed legislation. Law enforcement agencies from across the state are lining up to speak out against the bill.
“Better chance of saving himself or herself or someone else’s if they are concealed carry,” says Robert Stewart who served as Chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for twenty years before retiring in 2016.
But not everyone agrees the bill would have negative impacts on the state if passed.
“It is limited to concealed carry permit holders only which are statistically the most law-abiding citizens,” says DJ Spiker who spoke to the committee on behalf of the National Rifle Association.
South Carolina is one of five states without such law and with the state separated from pack, many remain divided on the hot bed issue.
“This does not create the wild west, this is expanding our constitutional freedoms and restoring them here in South Carolina,” says Spiker.
“And I believe the risks outweigh the rewards,” says Chief Reynolds.
The Senate Subcommittee will take the bill up for further consideration along with additional testimony at a later date still be decided. If the bill isn’t passed out of committee soon, it may have to be tabled until next year.