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Columbia councilman: SC lawmakers must vote down a controversial change to state’s gun laws | Opinion

Common sense gun laws can coexist while protecting Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms, but South Carolina House Bill 3594 removes the common sense protections afforded by the state’s current gun legislation.

There are means by which to accomplish simultaneous community safety and the protection of the very important constitutional right afforded by the Second Amendment. House Bill 3594 isn’t it.

Tyler D. Bailey
Tyler D. Bailey

In a state that has felt firsthand the tremendous impact of gun violence on many levels, but specifically after the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, it is astonishing to me that our state legislature would welcome an opportunity for more unfettered gun violence to take place.

South Carolina House Bill 3594 proposes to allow South Carolinians 18 years and older to carry concealed handguns openly without a license or any gun safety training. The proposed legislation also dismantles South Carolina’s system of responsible gun ownership currently provided through criminal history checks and the confirmation of statutory eligibility.

Current S.C. law requires a concealed weapons permit to carry a handgun across South Carolina which mandates permit seekers to undergo 8 hours of gun safety and firing training. This new legislation would make these requirements optional.

Local law enforcement staunchly object to the bill emphasizing the unintended consequences of creating barriers to determine and differentiate if a person is unlawfully carrying a weapon-placing officers and citizens in avoidable danger and making communities less safe overall.

With nationwide and local headlines routinely filled with reports of gun violence and mass shootings, it is no surprise that research shows most Americans support stricter gun laws, as evidenced by a 2023 Gallup Poll that found that 87% of Americans believed that gun laws were not strict enough or at a minimum should remain the same.

Gun violence is considered to be one of the major threats to public health and safety in communities across our state. For instance, the City of Columbia alone seized approximately 808 guns in 2023, an 18% increase in seizures over the last five years. While the city has been dedicated to working to reduce incidents of gun violence, our state legislature’s proposed deregulation of handguns will increase gun ownership and the widespread proliferation of unregulated guns within our communities.

I am supportive of protecting our constitutional rights and I’m a card-carrying concealed weapons permit holder myself. However, I am more importantly a father and husband and want my family to be safe everywhere — school, work, church, the playground, grocery store, etc. I do not want them to fear that someone who is not properly trained to have a gun might negligently, recklessly, or intentionally cause them harm.

It seems like common sense to require that individuals who desire to exercise their right to bear arms simply be trained to protect not only others but themselves. What is the harm in that? Many of the same individuals who would argue against the need for a permit to carry a gun, can often be found arguing that you should have an ID in order to vote. Why is there a double standard concerning which constitutional rights should be backed by identification requirements?

I will continue to support smart gun laws and gun safety to ensure we have safe communities free from senseless gun violence — and I hope that other lawmakers and leaders will join me in this necessary fight. For members of the S.C. General Assembly a first step in joining the fight for common sense gun legislation is voting down House Bill 3594 for the moral reasons that demand they do so.

Tyler D. Bailey is an at-large member of the Columbia City Council.