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'Constitutional carry' bill fails in Senate Judiciary Committee

Gun rights activists say that citizens should not need a permit to exercise a Constitutional right.
Gun rights activists say that citizens should not need a permit to exercise a Constitutional right.Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

A bill that would have allowed citizens to engage in what gun rights activists are calling 'Constitutional carry' has failed to garner enough votes to move from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Senate floor for a vote in the S.C. legislature.

State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, had first introduced the bill in 2013 and would have allowed residents in South Carolina to carry firearms either openly or concealed without state permits.

Bright is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate this year.

The bill carried over into 2014 when it never made it to the 2013 docket for a floor vote. But the Judiciary Committee voted 4-17 to reject the bill, thus preventing it from reaching the Senate floor for a vote.

However, Bright was clearly undeterred. Stating that the concept of Constitutional carry is far from dead, he vowed that the Senate would revisit the issue again and again if necessary.

Bright is adamant in his insistence that a Constitutional right should need no permit. Permission is already granted and is inherent in the fact that the Constitution refers to it as an "unalienable right." With gun rights in particular the Constitution adds the strongest possible language: "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Said Bright,

"The Second Amendment says that our rights to have firearms cannot be infringed upon and that’s what the federal government is doing right now. If you want to change the Constitution, change the Constitution but the Constitution clearly says that those rights shall not be infringed, and once you have to have a permit to assert a right then you can start requiring people to have permits to speak and a lot of other things.”

The bill was endorsed by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who has stated publicly that she supports the concept of "open carry."

But the bill had its detractors even among some Republicans in the state who feared that permit-less open carry would lead to unnecessary violence in places such as restaurants and bars, although the statistics show that neighboring states that have approved similar Constitutional carry laws have not experienced an upswing in violent crime.

State Sen. Larry Martin, who voted against the bill, stated that South Carolina already has an effective gun policy that not only grants permits but that allows citizens to exercise their rights.

The issue, however, is not whether or not current gun laws and restrictions are "effective." The issue is whether or not they are Constitutional. And the central philosophical question revolves around whether or not a state or any other entity has a legal right to place restrictions on or add hoops for citizens to jump through when they seek to exercise a right that the Constitution already guarantees as God-given, unalienable, and protected from any and all infringements.

For now, state senators appear to lack the moral and personal courage to deal with a Constitutional issue when it comes to the self-defense rights of citizens.

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