Aiken lawmakers bill would allow concealed guns in restaurants that serve alcohol

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Besides serving up sandwiches and deli favorites, Ryan's Market and Deli in downtown Aiken has alcohol, too.

"We serve beer and wine, but you know, people aren't coming here to get drunk,” said owner Hayes Mitchell.

Soon, Mitchell's customers could be enjoying breakfast or lunch while concealing a gun.

A bill filed Tuesday would allow someone with a Concealed Weapons Permit to bring a gun into restaurants that serve alcohol as long as they're not drinking any themselves.

"As far as a business owner is concerned, it's just that extra safety,” said Hayes, who supports the measure.

Customers like Neil Reed value the extra security, too.

"If someone does come in to rob an establishment or something like that, there's kind of a level playing field,” he said while picking up lunch at Ryan’s.

However, what happens if the proposed law is broken? What happens if someone who is drinking is also concealing a firearm?

"If you're drinking, you have no business carrying a gun at the time, because it affects your judgment and safe gun-handling,” said Chris Medlin, who has certified about 1,500 people with CWPs.

However, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Bill Taylor of Aiken, says there is a penalty if someone concealing does consume alcohol.

"The penalties for violating the Concealed Weapons Permits are very strong: heavy fines and jail terms up to three years,” Taylor said.

Medlin says restaurants like Ryan's probably won't have a problem. He says the legislation is overdue.

"These are really responsible citizens, and they're not out there waving guns around. They're out getting the permits to protect themselves and their families and other people around them,” he said.

"You have to think of the Concealed Weapons Permit holders as the good guys,” Taylor said.

Rep. Taylor has also re-filed a bill to implement the Fair Tax in the Palmetto State.

Rep. Bill Clyburn, also of Aiken, introduced three bills the same day.

The first would establish Early Voting in South Carolina. Other states, like Georgia, already offer the additional period to vote.

Another would give free public transportation to disabled vets.

Clyburn's final bill would establish anti-bullying councils at schools. He says these councils would be formed of parents, teachers and students.

Meanwhile, Sen. Shane Massey is drafting legislation to encourage more competition in private health insurance to hopefully bring costs down. Pre-filing for the Senate begins on Thursday.


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