Permitless carry has been a hot topic in the South Carolina statehouse for the past few years, with legislation allowing lawful gun owners to carry without a government-issued permission slip gaining acceptance in the House before stalling out in the Senate. Second Amendment advocates are hoping that this will be the year a Constitutional Carry bill makes it to Gov. Henry McMaster’s desk, while gun control groups and anti-gun lawmakers are hoping they can derail the legislation despite Republican supermajorities in both chambers.
Gun control activists and a few of their legislative allies rallied in the state capitol on Wednesday, but they probably would have been better off gathering behind closed doors given the comments by Rep. Jermaine Johnson, who offered one of the most bizarre objections to permitless carry that I’ve ever heard.
On the opposite side of the debate, supporters of the plan argue most gun owners are law-abiding citizens and are responsible with their firearms, so there’s no need for a permit.
Johnson argues it’s not enough.
“We need to put some identifiers in place to protect these good guys because in the heat of battle in the heat of the moment you can’t tell who the good guy is or who the bad guy is so we need to make sure we can protect all innocent bystanders,” said Johnson.
Say what now? Does Johnson honestly think that concealed carry holders who use their guns in self-defense are displaying their permit to carry in one hand while gripping their pistol with their other hand?
As for his objection that law enforcement will no longer be able to stop and ask someone about carrying a gun, the representative should understand that even today police have to have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed before they can stop someone and pat them down. That standard wouldn’t change if permitless carry takes effect, and Johnson could alleviate his concerns by talking to police chiefs and sheriffs in any of the 27 states that have already adopted permitless carry. There are still plenty of criminals getting busted for illegally possessing and carrying a gun, because permitless carry doesn’t change who can lawfully bear arms in self-defense. It only negates the need for a state-issued license before lawful gun owners can do so.
We’ve had these debates dozens of times across the country over the past fifteen years or so, and it’s important to note that not a single state has repealed permitless carry after it took effect. Contrary to the claims of anti-gunners, permitless carry doesn’t lead to an explosion in crime either. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost recently released the results of a study showing gun-involved crime decreased in six of the state’s eight biggest cities in the first year that permitless carry was in effect, while Oklahoma City has seen its homicide rates decline to the lowest level in decades with permitless carry in place. Similarly, Atlanta’s homicide rate dropped by 21 percent last year, the first full year for permitless carry in Georgia.
That doesn’t mean that crime will automatically drop because of permitless carry, only that permitless carry laws don’t automatically cause crime to spike. Police still have plenty of tools to target violent offenders in those 27 states, and the same would be true if South Carolina joins the majority of states that no longer require lawful gun owners to jump through all kinds of bureaucratic hoops before they can exercise a fundamental right.