Lawmakers consider allowing guns in restaurants and bars - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Lawmakers consider allowing guns in restaurants and bars

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In more than 40 states across the nation, anyone carrying with a concealed weapons permit can enter a restaurant or bar. But that's not the case in South Carolina. Now senators are setting their sights on changing that.

"I think we should be able to carry a gun with or without a permit because the government is controlling our lives," said Dirk Coetzee, owner of Kwagga Sports Bar.

But ask Coetzee how he'd feel about concealed weapons in his business and you'll get a very different answer.

"I don't want to motivate people to carry guns in bars, I don't think that's a good idea," he said. "I think its better to leave it in your car if you feel you need it."

But that's exactly the type of situation some lawmakers say can put people in harms way, especially outside of a bar or restaurant setting.

"They're exposed to danger and we're taking away their only means of protecting themselves," said Senator Greg Hembree, who represents South Carolina's 28th District.

The law currently says you can't consume alcohol anytime you're carrying, and that wouldn't change.
But some fear the proposed change would complicate things for  law enforcers.

"If you have several people in a restaurant or bar who feel threatened and they have guns, when the police officers get there, who's the good guy, who's the bad guy?" said Sylvie Dessau from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.

Bill sponsors say, concealed weapon permit holders are the good guys because of the training they have to go through to get one.

"I have more experiences with a concealed weapons holder doing the right thing than doing the wrong thing," said Hembree.

Those against the change point out the statistics:  South Carolina has the 13th highest rate for gun violence in the nation.

"It has no positive affect for the majority of people in south Carolina not to mention out of state visitors," said Dessau. "And, again, its not about rights, its about common sense and safety."

There are roughly 150,000 concealed weapons permits issued in South Carolina.

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