- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

Feb. 16

The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C., on guns in bars and restaurants:

Imagine walking into a bar and seeing a man choking a woman. As a concealed-weapons permit holder, you pull out your gun and yell for the man to stop.

He does not. And you honestly begin to fear for the woman’s life, her eyes rolling back into her head.

You shoot the perpetrator, believing you’re saving the life of a fellow citizen in desperate need.

But what you don’t know is a lot. Moments before your entrance, the woman had stabbed the man with a knife. His actions were in self-defense, an effort to subdue her rage. And the knife that would have clued you into the situation lays hidden in the dim light of the bar.

Your good deed has resulted in someone’s death - and a great deal of legal trouble for you.

Many attorneys, police officers and even those who have taken the state-required class to get a concealed-weapons permit, say that in the vast majority of cases, pulling out your gun in a public place is a bad idea.

Too much information is unknown.

Too much is at risk.

Too much can be lost by a good person trying to do the right thing.

In a similar vein, we believe our state’s concealed-weapons permit holders are good, law-abiding people who have rightfully submitted to and passed background checks and passed the required safety course to obtain their permits. They are our neighbors, our friends and our family who want to protect themselves and others from harm.

But a recently-passed state law, allowing those with concealed-weapons permits to carry their guns into bars and restaurants makes them - as well as the unarmed - less safe and introduces endless scenarios where bad situations can turn deadly.

The law, sponsored by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, is supposedly meant to increase convenience. Permit holders can carry their weapons into restaurants and bars that serve alcohol rather than leaving them in their vehicles where they are easy targets for thieves. The practice is allowed as long as the carrier of the weapon doesn’t drink while in the establishment and as long as no sign is posted, prohibiting guns.

The problem is the increase in convenience pales in comparison to the new dangers created. First off, permit holders must still leave their guns behind when entering schools, churches and any place that posts a sign prohibiting guns. Take a look next time you’re out and about town. A surprising number of places have the signs.

We doubt any great degree of enhanced convenience will result from the new law. And some local bar owners have already said they plan to post the signs because allowing weapons around those who are drinking alcohol is a dangerous proposal. Ditto.

Even if permit holders refrain from drinking (and there’s no way to ensure compliance) others in these establishments are not bound by any such rule.

And let’s face it. A lot of people go into bars for one purpose: to get drunk. (A handful of senators attempted to make the bill a bit less ridiculous by amending it so that guns would only be allowed in alcohol-serving establishments until midnight. But the House balked at the change.)

So now, guns are allowed in bars at any hour. And you can see how this quickly can turn into trouble. Some inebriated bar-goers will get cocky. They will want to fight. They will want to grab the gun of someone else and cause trouble.

And it won’t just be trouble for the gun owner and the troublemaker. Patrons sitting nearby - even patrons sitting hundreds of yard away - will be at risk. It probably won’t happen often. But once will be too many times.

Somewhere in lawmakers’ desire to increase gunowners’ rights, the right of all citizens to enjoy an evening out without fear of a weapon coming onto the scene has been trounced. True, guns are probably carried into our eateries and bars already by those who do not heed the law. But there’s a difference between a reckless few, flaunting the rules and making us all less safe, and our elected representatives passing laws that introduce unnecessary danger.

Even more disturbing, Gov. Nikki Haley has said she supports a Senate bill that would make it legal for most South Carolinians to carry guns, whether concealed or carried in the open, without a permit or the training currently required by state law. That likely means we’re in for a long session of gun-friendly bills intended to erode remaining gun restrictions.

The S.C. General Assembly has done our state a disservice, making establishments less safe. Lawmakers may build on the work in coming months. Let’s hope our assessment of the situation is wrong.

Online:

http://www.islandpacket.com

___

Feb. 18

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on dealing with ethics reform now:

Since January of 2013, more than two dozen bills related to ethics have been introduced to the S.C. Legislature. Two have become law.

Another 15 have been referred to House committees and seven to Senate committees.

Two have passed the House, and only one has passed the Senate.

Certainly some of the bills are complicated, and some need amending. Further, ethics reform bills are not the only ones the Legislature is juggling.

But it is difficult to think of a topic that is more important. Ethical government is the underpinning of a state that is duty- bound to serve its citizens responsibly.

Unfortunately, many members of the Legislature appear less than enthusiastic about actually enacting ethics reform.

Indeed, Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, told our reporter Jeremy Borden that “some of the nitpicking … is veiled opposition to the whole idea.”

The senator was speaking specifically about his commendable push for an independent ethics commission to investigate ethics complaints against members of the Senate and House.

It is difficult to justify the present process of dealing with charges of ethics violations: A committee of the House investigates its fellow members so charged, and a committee of the Senate investigates its fellow members.

Friends helping friends?

Or punishing foes?

So instead of demonstrating their opposition to reform by dismissing Sen. Campsen’s proposal for an independent commission, members quibble over who would serve on the panel.

Other bills that deserve attention include one to clarify campaign contribution reports required by candidates for election by the General Assembly; one to establish a public integrity unit to coordinate investigation of activities affecting ethics; one to prohibit campaign staff, fundraisers and members of committees organized to influence the outcome of campaigns from being transported in state-owned vehicles and aircraft; and one that identifies additional economic interests that must be disclosed.

Another critical issue that needs to be addressed is the independent adjudication of ethics complaints against legislators. All other elected officials in the state are judged by an independent panel, and so should legislators.

John Crangle of Common Cause has advocated for ethics reform for decades. He is concerned about how campaign funds are being used because of too much latitude in the law.

In short, legislators have enough ethics reform issues to study for quite some time.

But the excess of ideas should not be an excuse to put off doing anything. It should, instead, illustrate the critical need for ethics reform.

And it should convince lawmakers to get serious about debating these issues and making state government fully accountable to the people it serves.

Online:

http://www.postandcourier.com

___

Feb. 16

Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, S.C., on constitutional carry bill being a bad practical idea:

Gov. Nikki Haley has endorsed a bill introduced by Spartanburg Republican state Sen. Lee Bright that would allow South Carolinians to carry concealed weapons without training or permit.

It’s called the Constitutional carry bill, and the philosophical logic behind the bill is sound. The Second Amendment to the Constitution gives American citizens the right to carry arms, and you shouldn’t need a permit to exercise your rights.

But the practical dangers of the bill outweigh the reasonable philosophy behind it. Carrying a concealed firearm is a tremendous responsibility. Those who want to do so should be willing to receive the training necessary to make sure they carry their weapons safely and in adherence to the many rules about where and when they may carry them.

Under current law, those who want to obtain concealed weapon permits must undergo state-mandated training to show that they can safely handle and fire their weapons and to learn the laws regarding carrying and using them.

Under Bright’s proposal, anyone who is legally allowed to own a gun in the state of South Carolina would be able to carry that weapon either concealed or openly.

That would include anyone who just bought a gun and has had no training in safe handling of the weapon. It would include people who have no idea that it’s illegal to carry a weapon into a hospital, a school, a courthouse or most churches.

In addition, a number of lesser crimes don’t limit an individual’s ability to own a gun, but they do prohibit someone convicted of those offenses from obtaining a concealed weapon permit. If Bright’s bill were passed, people who break those laws would be legally able to carry weapons.

The current system of training and permitting South Carolinians who want to carry concealed weapons is minimal and poses no burden on a citizen’s Second Amendment rights. It simply gives all South Carolinians the assurance that the only people legally allowed to carry concealed weapons are law-abiding citizens who have been trained with their weapons and in the applicable laws.

We shouldn’t give up that assurance regardless of the philosophical constitutional argument. The truth is that we don’t need people who don’t know how to use their guns carrying firearms among us. And if people are encouraged to carry guns without being required to learn the laws about where they can carry and when they can use their guns, we will have more people arrested for breaking those laws.

This bill has been banging around the General Assembly for several years. South Carolinians can hope the governor’s endorsement won’t give it a boost.

Online:

http://www.goupstate.com/

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