COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) — Sen. Dick Harpootlian (D-Richland) spoke to colleagues on the SC Senate floor Tuesday to express his intention to increase the penalties for illegally carrying a gun.
The call for harsher punishments came on the heels of Saturday’s shooting at a Columbia mall in which nine people were injured.
“It comes back to people possessing and using guns who do not have a legal right to do so,” Harpootlian said. “The easy accessibility to guns by young people, mostly, and their ability to carry them or feel like they can carry them anywhere is killing us and them.”
One of the suspects, Jewayne Price, was initially charged with unlawful carrying of a pistol and released on house arrest and a $25,000 surety bond.
Harpootlian said he wants to amend the existing South Carolina law to make unlawful carrying a felony offense and increase the penalty to up to five years in prison with a mandatory minimum of one year. The current penalty is a fine of no more than $1,000 and no more than one year in prison.
Following pushback from Sen. Tom Corbin (R-Greenville) regarding Second Amendment rights, Harpootlian emphasized that he did not want to infringe on the right to carry with a concealed weapons permit.
Under H.3094, any person openly carrying a handgun must have a concealed weapons permit which can be obtained by anyone aged 21 and older through a training course. Individuals with a CWP are permitted to openly carry in a number of circumstances, including going hunting or fishing, performing law enforcement duties and walking to and from a person’s home, among others.
“I’m not doing anything to affect your ability to carry a weapon if you have a permit,” Harpootlian said. “What you cant do is carry it concealed unless you are permitted by the state of South Carolina to do so.”
Harpootlian’s proposal opposes a bill currently in the South Carolina House, which seeks to reduce the penalty for carrying without a concealed-weapons to $200 on the first offense.
Sen. Sandy Senn (R-Charleston) noted that there is no current provision regarding repeat offenses and encouraged Harpootlian to explore that, as well.