(Charleston) Post and Courier. May 3, 2021.
Editorial: SC open-carry gun bill starts bad, gets worse. Some want to make it worse still
There’s probably nothing we can say at this point to convince S.C. senators who don’t already realize that it’s a bad idea to let concealed-weapon carriers start carrying their guns on their hips.
After all, they’ve heard all the arguments against it, and still they voted more than 2-to-1 last week to bypass committee and put a House-passed open-carry bill at the top of their agenda for debate as early as Tuesday.
They’ve heard from police who warn that it’ll be even tougher to distinguish the bad guys from the good guns in active-shooter situations. And more commonly, they’ll be placed in a legally precarious situation when citizens call to complain about someone walking around their neighborhood with a holstered gun — because that’s not a crime, and legally speaking, they have no more justification for questioning someone walking down the street with a gun than someone walking down the street without a gun. (Retired SLED Chief Robert Stewart warned that the bill could get a lot of permit holders killed, because carrying a handgun openly would make them target No. 1 if they were present when a crime was being committed.)
We believe the entire bill should be defeated, because there is no reason to believe that the current law violates anyone’s constitutional rights, no one has presented a good reason it’s needed, and actual conservatives don’t change things without a legitimate reason.
But even if they aren’t willing to do that, we would urge senators at least to pay attention to some other provisions of H.3094 that have gotten little attention.
The bill does allow local governments to prohibit the open carry of weapons at protests, festivals and other organized events that require a permit. But it says they can’t extend the ban for any period before or after the event, which seems dangerous given that violence associated with protests often occurs after the event officially ends.
The bill also says local governments “may not exercise the provisions of this subsection” if “a permit is not applied for and issued prior to an event” — which seems to invite people who want a fully armed protest to hold it without applying for a permit.
H.3094 also strips a provision from state law that makes it clear that state law “does not affect the authority of any county, municipality, or political subdivision to regulate the careless or negligent discharge or public brandishment of firearms, nor does it prevent the regulation of public brandishment of firearms during the times of or a demonstrated potential for insurrection, invasions, riots, or natural disasters.”
State law doesn’t even define brandish, but several local governments, including Charleston, prohibit it. So it’s not clear that police could charge someone who started waving his or her gun around in a menacing way.
Of course, the worst part of the bill is the part that isn’t in it yet: Some senators want to transform a bill that allows open carry for licensed concealed-weapons permit holders into a bill that allows everybody who isn’t legally barred from owning guns to carry those guns openly.
At least people with concealed-carry permits have passed criminal background checks and received some rudimentary training in what state law allows and doesn’t allow them to do with their guns and where they are and are not allowed to carry those guns. And the people who apply for the permits tend to be law-abiding citizens — although SLED reports that it had to deny 2,660 permits in 2020 and that it revoked 1,199 more, which means not every one with a permit is law-abiding or otherwise fit to carry a gun.
Supporters call the idea of letting everybody carry their guns openly “constitutional carry.” That’s the ultimate in trying to rewrite reality through language, because as Chief Stewart testified last week, if the U.S. Constitution gave people the right to carry their guns in public, we wouldn’t be having this debate.
Except for a small portion of the population on the extremes, no one has ever believed the Constitution allows that; the U.S. Supreme Court has never even hinted that it does. Just the opposite, in fact. (The case the high court agreed to hear last month challenges a New York law that is far more restrictive than South Carolina’s much more conservative law that was in place prior to our current concealed-carry law.)
The only reason to even consider such a radical law would be if we were backed into a corner and forced by the court to pass it, which hasn’t happened. For that matter, no one has presented another reason that would justify allowing even permit holders to carry their guns openly.
(Orangeburg) Times and Democrat. May 3, 2021.
Editorial: Health crisis on state’s highways
It’s a health crisis that is too readily accepted: death and injury on the nation’s roads.
Last year, an estimated 42,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes and 4.8 million were injured. That represents an 8% increase over 2019, the largest year-over-year increase in nearly a century — even though the number of miles driven fell by 13% according to the National Safety Council.
The emptier roads led to more speeding, which led to more fatalities, said Leah Shahum, executive director of the Vision Zero Network, a nonprofit organization that works on reducing traffic deaths. Ironically, congested traffic, the bane of car commuters everywhere, had been keeping people safer before the pandemic, Shahum told Kaiser Health News.
A huge jump in road fatalities started showing up in the data “almost immediately” after the start of the pandemic, despite lockdown orders that kept people home and reduced the number of drivers on the road, said Tara Leystra, the National Safety Council’s state government affairs manager.
South Carolina, which annually has among the highest highway death rates per capita, has not been immune from the rising death toll: 1,062 deaths in 2020 compared to 1,006 in 2019. And so far in 2021, more than 300 people have been killed, an increase of 20% over 2020.
According to the Kaiser reporting, the rising death toll has state and local governments looking at ways to slow people down on the road. And with good reason. National studies suggest that in 27% of fatal traffic accidents, the unsafe speed of a vehicle involved constituted the principal cause of the crash. In many more crashes, unsafe speed plays at least a contributing role.
It’s time to resolve ourselves to a safer way and better day on the roads. Toward that end, here are five good reasons to slow down:
• To save your life. If you’re traveling 10 mph above the average speed on the road, you’re six times more likely to be involved in a crash. The chances of death or serious injury double for every 10 mph over 50 mph a vehicle travels. A frontal impact, for example, at 35 mph is a third more severe than one at 30 mph.
• To save gas. The faster you drive, the more fuel you burn. At speeds above 55 mph, fuel economy plummets rapidly. Slowing down from 65 to 55 increases your gas mileage by roughly 20%.
• To avoid expensive tickets. The average cost of a speeding ticket, with court fees, runs $150. The average insurance increase over three years after a speeding ticket runs roughly $300.
• Because speeding doesn’t save that much time. Speeding, with the goal of making uptime on the road, has a surprisingly small payback. A driver traveling 20 miles in a 60 mph zone saves only 1.5 minutes by going 65, 2.9 minutes by going 70, 4 minutes, speeding at 75 mph, 5 minutes at 80 mph and 5.9 minutes speeding at 85 mph. Do the math for your own commute.
(Greenwood) Index-Journal. May 1, 2021.
Editorial: Sometimes, doors should be kept open
“Oh, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.”
“Behind Closed Doors” was a bit risque in the country music world, but a lyric of the song is so true in what should be a transparent world, the world where taxpayer business is conducted.
Indeed, the board of trustees for the state Governor’s School for Agriculture at John de la Howe met for nearly three hours behind closed doors Tuesday, on the heels of publication of an investigative story produced by the Post and Courier in partnership with this newspaper.
That story, part of the Post and Courier’s “Uncovered” series, hit the P&C’s website Saturday and in print Sunday. It was shared on our website Sunday and in print Monday.
The meeting notification fell within the state’s requirements that the public be given a minimum 24-hour advance notice of meetings conducted by public bodies. It contained many of the usual elements of meeting agendas:
I. Call to order
II. Welcome guests and media
IV. Roll call
V. Approval of agenda
VI. Executive session
And per usual, beneath item VI was the language that spells out what qualifies for public bodies to enter into executive session, a fancy phrase that essentially means the body can go behind closed doors.
It reads: In accordance with S.C. Code of Laws Section 30-4-70(a)(1) – “Discussion of employment, appointment, compensation, promotion, demotion, discipline; or release of an employee, a student, or a person regulated by a public body or the appointment of a person to a public body…; Section 30-4-70 (a)(2) – “Discussion of negotiations incident to proposed contractual arrangements. . .the receipt of legal advice…or potential claim or other matters covered by attorney-client privilege, settlement of legal claims, or the position of the public agency in other adversary situations involving the assertion against the agency of a claim…;” and Section 30-4-70 (a)(3) – “Discussion regarding security personnel or devices.”
We had a reporter assigned to cover the meeting, which actually began before he arrived.
The agenda did reflect that the board would meet in executive session to discuss contractual and personnel matters, but when it returned to public session it took no action, no vote. And certainly the board did not have to vote on any matter. A closed-door meeting does not necessarily result in action; it can be for discussion and information purposes only, so long as said discussion remains within the parameters detailed in the state law, as enumerated above.
That said, discussing a news story does not seem to fit well within those parameters. But discussion of the story was apparently the reason the meeting was scheduled in the first place. Moreover, the board said it wanted to come up with a plan to prove school staff hadn’t broken the law.
What goes on behind closed doors? Oftentimes, no one knows. But oftentimes, it’s more than what should be done behind closed doors.