COLUMBIA, SC – One thing that the recent shootings in a Louisiana theater, military recruiting offices in Tennessee, and a Charleston church had in common is that all three were gun-free zones. “We’ve always contended that all that does is create a space, like the church in Charleston, where the only person there with a gun is going to be the bad guy,” says Tommy Tipton, a concealed weapons permit instructor in Lexington.
But President Obama said before the Louisiana theater shootings that, “[T]he United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings.”
The shootings fuel the debate on both sides. Those who want stricter laws point to the ease with which the shooters got guns and used them to kill innocent people in public places. But those on the other side argue that if someone else with a concealed weapons permit had been there and been armed, or in the Tennessee case if the Marines had been armed, lives could have been saved.
Concealed weapons permit holders are taught where they can and cannot carry, Tipton says. They’re not allowed to carry their guns into any government buildings or into any businesses that post valid signs that say, “No concealable weapons allowed.”
Yesterday’s restaurant and bar, in Columbia’s Five Points, doesn’t have a sign on the door, but owner Duncan MacRae says he doesn’t want guns inside. “There’s a reason there’s a law against drinking and driving. There should be a rule against drinking and gun-carrying,” he says.
That’s despite the fact that he’s a Marine veteran and a CWP holder. And he doesn’t dispute the argument about gun-free zones creating killing zones for criminals. “They can look up on the Internet and find out where people don’t have guns and that’s where they go. And if they think that somebody does have a gun, maybe they won’t go there,” he says.
He says he doesn’t know what the solution is, since he thinks it’s wise not to allow guns in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol but also thinks gun-free zones can have their own dangers.
Spartanburg state senator Lee Bright has a bill pending at the South Carolina Statehouse now that would allow anyone who can legally buy a gun to carry it openly, without needing a CWP. He calls it the Constitutional Carry Act, saying since the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms there’s no reason for states to require permits. The bill did not make it out of committee this year.