By Valencia Wicker
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) – Practically every seat was filled Monday night in the North Charleston City Hall council chambers as dozens gave their opinions on a statewide constitutional carry act.
Most in the room supported the idea.
"I think it's very important that you pass this law," said one man at the end of his speech.
The proposed Senate Bill 115 would allow anyone to carry a gun, openly or concealed, without a permit.
In short, the South Carolina Constitutional Carry Act of 2013 would:
•Change the offense of unlawfully carrying a handgun to carrying a handgun with intent to commit a crime;
•Repeal the offence of carrying concealed;
•Remove references to concealed weapons permits and allow a private employer or owner to allow/prohibit anyone from carrying a weapon in his business by providing notice with a sign;
•Prohibit any person from entering a residence or dwelling of another with a weapon without permission;
•Amend the section dealing with people who are allowed to carry a weapon anywhere in the state while on duty, to include law enforcement officers.
The first person in the room to speak against the legislation was City of Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen.
"I think when we talk about this, there has to be a balance," said Mullen. "There has to be a balance between what the freedoms of the individual are and what the community safety is."
During public comment, Mullen said he supported the Second Amendment, but wondered how the law would protect against criminals who are not yet convicted.
"The concern I have with this particular legislation is the fact that it creates for a law enforcement officer the necessity to determine what the criminal intent of a person is who is carrying a firearm," Mullen said. "Under this legislation, the drug dealers, the robbers, the assaulters that we encounter on a daily basis who have not been convicted, this would be an open invitation for them to carry. So, I think what we would like to see is some discussion of how we can balance those things."
North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers said he supported the bill but had similar concerns.
"The only thing that gave me pause was that part about the handgun with the intent to commit a crime. As a law enforcement officer, in the old statute there was clarification," he said.
Other public hearings are planned for Rock Hill, Greenville and Myrtle Beach.