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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says she supports a proposed bill that would make it legal to carry guns without a permit or training, The State newspaper reports.
The proposed Constitutional Carry Act (S. 115) would decriminalize carrying a firearm without a permit — effectively eliminating the need for a concealed weapons license and related training — and would allow people to carry firearms either concealed or out in the open.
“Criminals are dangerous," Haley said Tuesday, "and I think that every resident should be allowed to protect themselves from criminals."
If enacted, South Carolina would be the sixth state with such a law. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Vermont and Wyoming already have similar laws on the books.
Haley's comments came as she signed into law a new bill that allows licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons into restaurants and bars — as long as they do not drink alcohol and as long as the bars and restaurants allow them to do so.
“The idea of going into a restaurant and having to leave [your gun] in your car causes concern on whether it will be stolen,” Haley said. “When it is not with you, you are concerned about who else it could be with or if somebody else could get it.”
The new law also removes proof of residency requirements and expands the range of acceptable photo identification used when applying for a concealed weapons permit, and it eliminates the eight-hour training requirement for a handgun course.
But Haley made it clear she would support legislation, introduced by state Sen. Lee Bright, further expanding Second Amendment rights.
The State noted that the proposed bill would make it a crime to carry a firearm "with the intent of committing a crime" and would not eliminate the state’s concealed weapons permitting program entirely: Gun owners "still might need a state permit in order to carry their concealed firearms in other states."
But the controversial bill faces significant opposition in the state Senate, the paper reports, and it's unlikely it will pass this year.
“Is [carrying firearms] a right under our Constitution? Sure it is," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Larry Martin, who opposes Bright's bill, said Tuesday. "But it’s also a huge responsibility that we as citizens should respect."
The "constitutional carry" laws are largely symbolic, according to law professor Eugene Volokh.
"With or without a training requirement, the person who wants to carry a gun is probably going to be trained because they want to be able to shoot effectively," Volokh said. “The only proven tangible effect so far is that it becomes easier for poor people to carry guns legally.”