Here is what I know: In 1996, the South Carolina Legislature wrote our current Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) laws and in doing so, created a number of exemptions in the right to carry laws, one being an exemption from the right to legally carry a firearm with a concealed weapons permit on college and school campuses. In the 10 years since this law was enacted,
The Bill: I didn’t draft a new bill to address the issue. I had legal counsel take the existing CWP law, with its campus exemptions, and strike everything that dealt with school campuses. Why? So that we would have a clean slate as we began the process of discussing this issue, because safety and security are important enough for us to consider everything, leaving no stone unturned or argument unanswered. I knew that there would be cynics and critics, and that I would catch a lot of heat over this issue. That heat I am willing to take for tackling the difficult and emotional issues in order to insure that our children and college students are as safe as we can make them.
Many folks think the idea for this legislation came directly from the Virginia Tech incident. It did not. As a matter of fact, a Clemson student asked us to look into this same issue late last spring, as he was concerned for his safety and the safety of other students in the wake of several violent episodes on and around the Clemson campus. There was no time at the end of the Legislative Session to begin the process of changing or creating laws. Then the massacre happened and the idea bubbled back to the surface. So we began looking into the way our state had created the so called “gun-free zones” on school and college campuses, to see if there was anything we might need to address.
What has it gotten us? Exactly what I had envisioned. Now we are thinking about and discussing the issues surrounding campus and school security. I have talked with the chiefs of campus security at Clemson, USC, MUSC, the
The national media has sensationalized the events at Virginia Tech to the point where normally rational and reasonable people are speculating that this legislation’s intent is to “arm school children and allow college students to carry firearms around in their book bags.” That couldn’t be further from the truth and simply reading the legislation would answer those questions.
More that I know: I am alarmed to find that not every school in
I chose the existing law as the template from which to work as we move forward. I have stated very clearly that it has NEVER been the intent to allow CWP holders to carry firearms into the stadium or coliseum for sporting events, and I would support an amendment addressing that. Some folks, however, would use the sensationalizing of this one facet of the bill to cloud the true objective – the safety of our campuses and that simply is not fair.
This bill is most likely not the answer and it does have its legitimate questions. Even with 20 Co-Sponsors, I am not pushing it. But rather, I am letting the tried and true legislative process of discussion, public input and debate work. The issue is so important to the American people that the topic has made all of the major newspapers in the state, every Columbia TV station, along with national news channels like CNN, CNN Radio, HNN, FOX NEWS, CBS, ABC and multiple radio stations across two states. The discussions cover everything from school/campus safety to a citizen’s right to personal protection on down to the meaning of the United States Constitution. Who can argue that it is not healthy for us to discuss the issue?
Conclusions: I do know that
Just Added: Good Read: A Principal & His Gun