This week, the South Carolina Legislature took several actions regarding Senate Bill 308, the Restaurant Carry bill introduced by state Senator Sean Bennett (R-38). On Wednesday, after making several significant improvements, the state House passed S 308 and this bill was then returned to the state Senate for a concurrence vote. Unfortunately, time was running out on the legislative session and this bill became bogged down with delaying tactics designed to kill it for the year. At 5 p.m. on Thursday, the South Carolina Legislature adjourned for the year before the state Senate could act on the amended version of S 308. S 308 remains viable for 2014’s legislative session and the NRA will continue to work with pro-gun state lawmakers to ensure this critical reform becomes law.
Action started on Tuesday when pro-gun state Representative Mike Pitts (R-14) offered an amendment to S 308 designed to help streamline the process for issuing and renewing Concealed Weapons Permits (CWP) in South Carolina. For some time, there have been problems with delays on issuing and renewing CWPs. Representative Pitts’ language sought to remedy that problem, in part with a raise in the fees for new permits, while leaving renewal fees unchanged. His amendment also added a year to the duration of the permit, would streamline the application and renewal process, and would allow a CWP holder to transport a firearm under the seat in her or his vehicle, among other things.
When it became clear that there were some concerns regarding the fee increase, Representative Pitts agreed to have that removed, while maintaining the rest of the positive reforms. On Wednesday, the House passed an amended version of S 308 by a 100-13 vote.
The Senate took up S 308 on Thursday, and while some pro-gun Senators sought to move it as quickly as possible in order to beat the adjournment deadline, their efforts fell short. The Senate could have either voted to concur with the House version and send the bill to Governor Nikki Haley (R), or they could have voted to not concur and the bill would have been sent to a conference committee to iron out the differences between the Senate and House versions. Either option would have been an acceptable route to ensure Restaurant Carry became law this year.
Instead, Senators Gerald Malloy (D-29) and John Scott (D-19) offered amendments that were designed to derail S 308. They were successful, in spite of efforts by Senator Larry Martin (R-2) to break the expected delaying tactics.
While it is unfortunate that S 308 failed to pass this year, the NRA will redouble its efforts to ensure its passage next January. We appreciate efforts of all state legislators who have worked closely with the NRA on this process. Special thanks, however, are in order for Senators Sean Bennett and Katrina Shealey (R-23), who introduced S 308, Senator Larry Martin, who introduced the first Restaurant Carry bill in the Senate this year and did everything he could to ensure S 308 passed this year, as well as Senators John Courson (R-20), Shane Massey (R-25), Harvey Peeler (R-14), and Tom Young (R-24), who all worked with the NRA tirelessly to ensure S 308 passed in the Senate initially. In the House, our special thanks goes to Speaker Robert Harrell (R-114), House Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney (R-43), and Representatives Derham Cole (R-32) and Mike Pitts, who all worked together to ensure S 308 moved through the House as quickly as possible.