Politics

02.13.14

America's Next Top Shooting Gallery

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has endorsed a proposal that allows open or concealed carry—without permits.

Is South Carolina America’s next O.K. Corral?

If that sounds like an exaggeration, then take a look at the radical, pro-gun proposal just endorsed by Governor Nikki Haley, the Tea Party favorite who is running for reelection this year, after a tumultuous first term. Crafted by state Senator Lee Bright of Spartanburg, one of Lindsay Graham's opponents in the GOP Senate primary, the “Constitutional Carry Act” would eliminate the state’s permit and training requirements for citizens who want to carry guns.

That’s right: If you were a resident of South Carolina and wanted to carry a weapon—concealed or otherwise—then under this law you could. No classes, no tests, no background checks, no questions. I have no problem with guns—I grew up in a gun-owning household, and I’ve used firearms myself—but this is insane.

Sen. Bright, explaining the proposal, told The State newspaper that the Second Amendment “gives Americans the right to carry firearms without any government restrictions.” Permits, in other words, are unnecessary. And Governor Haley, offering her take, told reporters that “criminals are dangerous,” and that she thinks “that every resident should be allowed to protect themselves from criminals.”

Because this bill lowers the barrier to owning a firearm in South Carolina, there’s a good chance it would spark a measurable increase in gun ownership, as well as guns owned per person. And while someone, somewhere, might stop a crime with their firearm, it’s far more likely—in the absence of any kind of safety training or background checks—that this law would exacerbate accidents and violence involving guns, to say nothing of boosting the export of firearms to other states, where South Carolina is a national leader—the state has the sixth highest rate of “gun exports,” i.e., guns sold legally in South Carolina that are later used in crimes in other states.

Yes, Vermont has a similar law on the books, but it doesn't have South Carolina's terrible reputation for gun violence. Haley's state is the seventh-deadliest for gun crime, with 5 gun murders for every 100,000 people in 2010, compared to the national average of 3.6 per 100,000. Overall, from 2001 through 2010 there were 5,991 people killed by guns in South Carolina. Law enforcement officers are especially vulnerable—between 2002 and 2011, sixteen law enforcement agents were killed by guns, the fourth worse rate in the nation.

Worse, South Carolina is the fourth worst state in the country on the rate of women murdered by guns—64 percent above the national average—and it ranks second-worst on the rate of women murdered by men in domestic violence incidents. In half of those crimes, guns were used.

When you also consider that South Carolina has a “Stand Your Ground” law that—like Florida’s—is a boon to the trigger happy, then—if this bill becomes law—you have a recipe for even more gun violence in the name of “stopping criminals.”

Now, if you see the Second Amendment as inviolable—a sanctification of our supposedly God-given right to firearms—then I doubt this weighs on you. Senseless death is just the price of freedom. For the rest of us, however, the prospect of a fully armed state—where guns flow freely and the law is biased toward shooters—is terrifying.