Columbia, SC Police Chief Skip Holbrook writes in the Columbia State, Violent crime is on the rise in many large cities. Columbia is not immune. Targeted attacks on law enforcement (Dallas, Baton Rouge) and a rise in line-of-duty deaths have further complicated an incredibly stressful and dangerous job.
It’s against this backdrop that the S.C. House passed a bill to make it legal for people to openly carry handguns in the state, with certain location exceptions. The bill won’t become law this year, but it will be front and center when lawmakers return to Columbia in January, and we need to understand its implications.
The right to bear arms is fundamental to our democracy, but the sale, purchase, ownership and carrying of guns comes with great responsibility and use of common sense, and I firmly believe an open-carry law will significantly complicate police interactions with citizens, resulting in many unintended consequences. Open-carry law or not, when citizens see someone with a gun, they will call the police. When responding to “person with a gun” calls, officers have few details to help them quickly determine an armed individual’s intent and whether that person poses a threat to public safety or the individual.
No doubt, we would encounter many innocent, law-abiding people who were armed in compliance with an open carry law. But some will be violent criminals, perhaps even gang members, who don’t yet have a felony on their record that prohibits them from possessing weapons. Also let’s not forget the numerous and frequent protests, demonstrations and marches in our city.
Open carry could make it extraordinarily difficult for police to protect those exercising their right to assemble and protest peacefully. There is no denying that easily accessible firearms add fuel to already emotionally charged situations, which too often results in tragedy.
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