South Carolina legislators return to Capitol; Senate addresses gun bill

South Carolina House and Senate lawmakers returned Wednesday to what will be a busy legislative year in South Carolina.

Very little action was taken Tuesday afternoon. The House referred all remaining bills from the previous legislative session as well as prefiled bills to their respective committees.

The House also voted to move their start time to 2 p.m. Wednesdays for the next three weeks to allow members to attend meetings for the Ways And Means Committee.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, all bills except for one were referred to committees for review. Senators did spend time talking about a proposed gun bill that would make a person convicted of carrying a firearm into a business that sells alcoholic liquor, beer, or wine for consumption on the premises guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, that person would be fined up to $2,000 or imprisoned up to two years or both.

Lawmakers added a provision, however, that would exempt those with concealed weapons permits who do not consume alcohol while at the business. They also added an amendment to allow business owners to hang signs that read “NO CONCEALABLE WEAPONS ALLOWED” and request a person to leave the premises to prohibit firearms in the business.

House members passed the bill with some amendments in a majority vote last June just before the session ended. Now the Senate has to decide if they will move the bill forward.

Sen. Kent Williams of Marion criticized lawmakers who support the legislation, arguing it could accelerate gun violence. Williams listed a string of incidents involving gun violence that have occurred all over South Carolina, including the shooting of University of South Carolina freshman Martha Childress last October.

“We’re passing legislation to put more guns on the street,” Williams said. “This is a bad bill and we’re not thinking. We really need to rethink this bill.”

The Senate voted to table bill discussion for Wednesday’s session.

Legislators will reconvene at 2 p.m. Thursday.