If not the Senate, the calendar should save South Carolinians from last week’s reckless House vote to allow civilians to carry firearms without earning a concealed weapons permit first.

The bill went to the Senate this week, where procedural rules – and hopefully saner heads – will keep it from passage before the legislative session ends June 4.

The saner (but losing) heads in the House were understandably outraged that the repeal slid through on an amended bill with no input from the public or law enforcement, which surely have substantial thoughts on a change this large.

The amended bill still bans open carry, but the House has tapped deep into South Carolina’s twin passions over nanny government and gun rights when it comes to the concealed weapon permit.

Citizen and legislator alike should oppose arbitrary gun restrictions aimed more at pacifying activists than protecting the public. But legislators also have a responsibility to public safety, and it is here CWP opponents radically fail.

Repealing the CWP revokes training mandates as well. As Kingstree Rep. Cezar McKnight warned the House, “a person could carry a gun [under this bill] having never even fired it, never loaded, cleaned it or done anything.”

His opponents call safety training a personal responsibility the state has no right to mandate if doing so “denies people the right to carry.”

This is myopic foolishness. The image of civilians pulling guns in public spaces is fraught with unintended consequences.

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel has testified publicly about the “unique dangers” associated with gun combat in a dynamic environment like a public shooting. The potential for hitting innocent bystanders, the fraction-of-a-second timing required to know when to shoot (and when not to), demands significant training and retraining of law enforcement, he told senators at a committee hearing in 2013.

The average civilian will never get that level of training, even with the CWP mandate. At minimum, all the law requires is an eight-hour handgun course that includes firing the gun in the instructor’s presence. Clearly, satisfying one instructor in a controlled environment comes nowhere near the training demanded of law enforcement officers, or their experience.

Even so, it’s better than no training at all, which is the default position of any state that leaves it to “personal responsibility” to persuade people to learn how to operate a deadly weapon before carrying it out in public.

A gun’s effectiveness in self-defense is directly proportional to the skill of the person using it – as is the safety of innocent people anywhere near when the shooting starts. For state lawmakers to presume every person who buys a gun in this state appreciates that truth enough to fork over $150+ for training – absent the force of law – amounts to playing with the lives of their constituents.

Legislators owe it to the public – and infringe on no one’s constitutional rights – to ensure state residents who carry weapons know how to use them. If House members can’t absorb that truth, we can only hope the Senate has enough respect for human life to thwart them.

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