South Carolina may allow guns in bars and restaurants until midnight

Gun laws have recently been the subject of national discussion. In South Carolina, the state Senate has weighed in by passing - by a large majority - a new gun law that would allow owners with permits for concealed weapons the ability to bring loaded guns into restaurants and bars that serve alcohol until midnight. Under the proposed amendment, from midnight until 5:00 a.m. such establishments would remain weapon-free.

The bill is currently in the House Committee on Judiciary and has not yet been put to the floor for a vote. Governor Nikki Haley would also have to sign the bill in order for it to become law.

Conditions in the bill would restrict carrying guns in such establishments. A permit holder could not actually drink alcohol while carrying a concealed weapon at a bar or restaurant. Furthermore, a bar or restaurant would be free to ban weapons on its premises and could ask a patron who was carrying to leave. The restaurant would have to post a sign stating "No Concealable Weapons Allowed" in order to restrict gun carrying on its premises. If the bar did post such a sign, patrons who violated the law would be guilty of a misdemeanor.

South Carolina is currently one of a handful of states that specifically bans guns in bars. By default, many states allow guns in bars as part of their conceal-and-carry laws.

Current S.C. gun laws

Under the current law the patron of an establishment that serves alcohol cannot bring a gun onto the premises. A violation of the law is a misdemeanor that can bring up to a $2,000 fine and jail time of up to three years. A conviction also brings the revocation of a concealed weapons permit.

A person carrying a deadly weapon without a permit is also guilty of a misdemeanor so long as that person is outside of his or her home. If convicted, a person carrying a concealed weapon without a permit faces a fine, potential jail time of 30-90 days and will have the weapon confiscated.

Penalties for carrying a loaded weapon may increase if there are other circumstances involved. For example, armed robbery is a felony and a conviction will result in a lengthy prison sentence. Any person in South Carolina who displays a firearm while committing a violent crime must serve at least five years in jail, with the potential for a much more severe sentence. It is also a felony to carry a deadly weapon or firearm onto an elementary or secondary school property.

A criminal defense attorney can help

Gun possession laws in South Carolina can be complex. Violations of gun laws carry strict penalties, however. People in South Carolina accused of violating gun laws or committing other crimes involving deadly weapons should immediately consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney to ensure their rights are upheld in court.