We are not fans of editorials that essentially don't take a side on an issue. Providing readers a series of pros and cons without ever taking a stance on the matter serves little purpose.
And so it goes, we find ourselves conflicted about a particular piece of legislation that appears to be headed to Gov. Nikki Haley's desk, where it will likely be signed into state law.
That legislation will allow people who have concealed-weapons permits to carry their weapons into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Wisely, the legislation includes the caveat CWP holders cannot consume alcohol in the bar or restaurant they patronize. If they are found to be DWC — drinking while carrying — they face two years in prison and a $2,000 fine, plus the loss of their CWP for five years. That restriction in and of itself shows lawmakers acknowledge mixing alcohol and guns is not the best bet.
State Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, is probably correct in his assessment, by and large, the CWP holders are not the ones to be worried about when it comes to weapons in bars and restaurants. They took courses, trained and know what circumstances warrant drawing their weapons. They are typically law-abiding people who are simply exercising a constitutional right to carry a weapon as a means of protecting themselves and, by extension, anyone else they are with.
Still, this legislation is worrisome in it opens a door that might be best left closed. Yes, we know the criminal will not be impeded by any laws relative to guns, nor will the criminal be deterred from committing a crime simply because a business displays a "No Concealed Weapons" sign.
And, by the way, the current legislation allows bars and restaurants to do just that, so even legally permitted carriers of concealed weapons will either wind up breaking the law or, once again, people are faced with the fact it is entirely possible a criminal will come into a bar or restaurant and no one else inside will be in a position to react in kind if the criminal uses a weapon. So in a sense, by permitting bars and restaurants to prevent CWP holders from carrying their weapons inside, lawmakers very probably defeated the intent of the law, or at the very least, watered it down significantly. After all, the intent was and is to allow law-abiding holders of concealed-weapons permits the opportunity to protect themselves inside and outside the businesses. Permit holders long claimed, if they are not allowed to carry inside a business and must either leave their weapons at home or lock them inside their cars, the business should be liable for ensuring their safety to and from the business, as well as inside it. Further, they contend, the business should have to ensure their weapon is safe, their auto cannot be broken into and their weapon stolen. And those points, frankly, have merit.
But, we remain in a state of conflict about this pending legislation because, at the end of the day, the fact remains just because there are laws does not mean they will be adhered to, even by CWP holders. There is, unfortunately, a very real concern the following scenario could occur:
A CWP holder is with a group of people inside a bar. He strikes up a conversation with some people, including a couple of women. The husband or boyfriend of one of the women has had a few too many and confronts the man. He accuses the man of being too forward with his wife or girlfriend. The permit holder apologizes, backs away and denies trying to do anything inappropriate, but that is not good enough for the irate husband/boyfriend who then punches the man in the face.
There are a couple of ways this scenario could end, but one ending in particular is not good. A punch to the face does not likely warrant a reply with a gunshot. This is not to say the drunk man is not capable of killing the CWP holder, but there is a substantial risk here a gun will be used in what could or should be a short fist fight.
Nonetheless, it appears the legislation is on its way to becoming law. Time will likely tell us whether the law is wise and good. We're just not wholly convinced it is.