The South Carolina House gave its final approval Thursday to a bill that would allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry their guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as they don't drink.
"We are one of only six states that do not allow you to carry into a restaurant that serves alcohol and the other 44 states are having no issues with people that do carry in," says Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, the main sponsor of the bill and a formerGreenvillepolice officer.
Restaurants and bars would still be able to post signs saying concealed weapons are not allowed. The bill would also require a CWP holder to leave if asked to do so by the owner or manager of the restaurant.
Pitts says he agrees that alcohol and gunpowder don't mix, which is why a CWP holder who drinks would be subject to jail time of up to two years, a fine of up to $2,000 and the loss of his permit.
"You don't really want people sitting in the bar drinking and carrying a weapon," he says. "But I shouldn't be prohibited, as a law-abiding citizen and a concealed weapons permitee, from going into an Applebee's with my family and having to leave my firearm in the vehicle."
Scott MacRae, co-owner of Yesterday's restaurant and tavern inColumbia's Five Points, says, "Most people that would have their permits would be responsible enough to act responsible and not drink if they were carrying their weapon. Sounds pretty reasonable to me."
The final vote in the House on the bill was 90 to 5. Rep. Terry Alexander, D-Florence, says he's against the whole idea of people being allowed to carry concealed weapons. "Just the idea that someone can carry a gun on a restaurant's property, go in and get drunk and have the gun right there in front of them," he says.
Rep. Pitts says there have been cases in other states where CWP holders were not allowed to have their guns inside restaurants and the results were deadly. "Where multiple shootings occurred in a restaurant and people that were shot and killed had concealed weapons permits and their gun was in their car," he says. "They could not return fire."
Virginiapassed a similar law that took effect on July 1, 2010. An analysis of Virginia State Police crime data by the Richmond Times-Dispatch found that major crimes involving guns at bars and restaurants that serve alcohol decreased by 5.2 percent in the first year after the law took effect.
The South Carolina bill, H3665, now goes to the state Senate.