"Open carry" legislation is progressing in South Carolina after the state House approved a bill to let concealed weapons permit-holders carry handguns openly in public.
The bill passed 82-33, mostly along party lines, with the Republican majority carrying it through, the Post and Courier reported. It would implement "open carry with training," a compromise between gun control supporters and staunch believers in the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Bobby Cox (R), said 45 states have some form of open carry law and his bill "will bring us in line with the rest of the country."
"We have to do better, and we are doing better," Cox said. "This is sending a message that these legislators and myself stand with the citizens of South Carolina to protect our constitutional freedoms."
Democrats warned that open carry policies could have an adverse affect on black South Carolinians, who might be profiled by police for openly wielding firearms.
"This does not support or help people who look like me," state Rep. Jermaine Johnson (D) said, noting that he is a 6-foot-7-inch, 285-pound black man. "If I end up in somebody's body bag or someone's morgue, I want you to think about the way you voted today."
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford (D) offered an amendment to prohibit the police from detaining someone just because they are openly carrying a gun, but the House voted down that amendment.
State law enforcement officials are opposed to the bill, believing police lives may be put in danger if anyone can openly carry a handgun.
The bill now heads to the state Senate, where historically gun rights bills have faced opposition. However, Republicans expanded their Senate majority in the 2020 election and the newly elected lawmakers are excited to fulfill their campaign promises by advancing gun rights.
"I think there's a renewed energy within the caucus to do something about it, and certainly some of us who flipped seats in no small part based on issues like this are going to be pretty vocal about it," freshman state Sen. Josh Kimbrell (R) told the Post and Courier.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey (R) said he supports the bill but would not say if the Senate would consider it before the end of the current legislative session.
A spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) said the governor would sign the bill if it passes through the legislature.