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S.C. House passes permitless carrying of guns, hate crime bill before crucial deadline

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 10:29 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The day before the so-called crossover deadline, state lawmakers passed a hate crime bill and a bill removing the need for a concealed weapon permit to carry a gun.

Thursday’s crossover deadline is a point at which any bill passing the House or Senate must get a two-thirds vote in the other chamber to be considered, a higher bar than is usually needed.

H. 3096 also known as the, “SC Constitutional Carry Act of 2021” passed 69-47 and has one more procedural vote left before it heads to the Senate.

Lawmakers expect it to face a tougher battle in the Senate than the “Open Carry with Training Act” that recently passed the lower chamber allowing gun owners with a concealed weapons permit to carry a handgun openly.

“We wanted to give them multiple options, but also send the signal that this is very important, the house has moved on this with two strong second amendment bills these are the first bills like this that have come through the Committee in the past 25 years,” said H. 3096 sponsor Rep. Bobby Cox, R-Greenville. “The current state of the country there is an outcry from the grassroots and our constituents they want to protect themselves.”

Cox also said the motivation for this bill came from some constituent fears that with Pres. Joe Biden in the Oval Office, there is a threat to gun ownership in the state.

Opponents of the bill said openly carrying a gun is not the same experience for Black and white South Carolinians and allowing all gun owners to carry a gun without training poses a threat to minority communities.

“We live in a world where people have preconceived notions and biases and fears that could potential put lives at risk,” said Williamsburg Democrat Rep. Cezar McKnight. “I hope we are not swimming in blood.”

While the debate on gun laws took a few hours, there was no debate on a hate crime bill that passed the House 79-29.

H. 3620, or the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act, would enhance penalties for certain crimes committed against a person based on the belief or perception of a person’s race, color, sex, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability.

For Rep. Wendell Gillard, D-Charleston, the fight for a hate crime law become more pressing in 2015 after nine parishioners were shot and killed during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Since that year, the bill has been introduced multiple times.

“We kept the promise, we are trying to turn something bad into something good,” Gilliard said. This year alone, it has gone from including provisions on stalking, harassment, and property damage to only considering violent crimes for enhanced penalties like jail time and fines. After debate in committee, lawmakers did add protections for members of the LGBTQ community, which remained in the final House bill.

“This is a very important moment. I think the state of South Carolina should be proud. It shows what we can do when we work in unison,” Gilliard said.

For now, Gilliard and his fellow sponsors are celebrating the passage of a hate crime bill at all and are hopeful as it works through the Senate provisions that were removed will be added back to the bill.

“It’s a starter,” said Rep. Robert Williams, D-Darlington, “We can add to it…and make this state a better state to live, work, and play.”

However, while the bill did have bipartisan support some lawmakers were not in favor of the legislation as it is currently written.

“If someone could show me the data that hate crime stops or even deters someone from being evil and harming another human being, I would vote all day for this bill,” said Greenville Republican Rep. Ashley Trantham. “A crime is a crime period.”

Also on Wednesday, lawmakers in the house also passed a bill banning local governments like towns, cities, and counties from passing their own rules on tobacco products, including vape products. Supporters say this standardizes tobacco laws statewide.

But the American Cancer Society and other groups oppose that legislation, saying it stops local governments from protecting children against tobacco products.

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