COLUMBIA — North Augusta Rep. Bill Hixon wants his constituents to advocate for his gun-permit reciprocity bill, which would ease travel to and from Georgia for those with concealed weapons. It’s the No. 1 issue raised by the community, whether at church, at Publix, or at any public event, according to the lawmaker.
The North Augusta Republican introduced H. 3799 last March, which would mean both Georgia and North Carolina would recognize the concealed-weapon permits of South Carolinians. The House passed the bill 101-5 in April and sent it to the Senate, where it sits.
“I personally would urge the citizens of the counties who live in the border counties to call their sheriff and tell the S.C. Sheriffs Association to get out of the way of blocking this bill,” said Hixon, adding that, “all 46 sheriffs don’t agree,” with the association, which has expressed concerns. Indeed, counties that border the Savannah River have unique circumstances.
“We have many people that travel back and forth, Georgia folks and South Carolina folks, that are absolutely breaking the law every single day. And they don’t intend to,” said Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, “Do I remember when I cross the bridge to reach over and grab my glove box and lay it (firearm) on the seat? No. Who does that?”
Without a Georgia concealed-weapon permit, someone with a firearm must display it in plain view.
“Most of us don’t think that’s a very good idea,” said Taylor. “The whole idea of concealed is you’re not alarming anybody, you don’t see anybody, no one sees you.”
If the bill passed, Georgia would automatically honor South Carolina’s permits. Hixon’s closely-tailored bill has emerged as the one more likely to become law, compared to a similarly intended bill.
That proposal, H. 3025, initially would have extended reciprocity to many more states, but underwent a change that has given members of the Senate pause: it would also get rid of the need for a concealed-weapon permit.
The S.C. Sheriffs Association has been among opponents of both bills, citing concerns with Hixon’s legislation that unlike South Carolina, Georgia has no centralized collection of arrests that should affect a permit holder’s status.
Additionally, a training disparity has worried bill opponents: Georgia concealed-weapon permit holders aren’t forced to complete training, while South Carolina requires it.
In March of last year, Jarrod Bruder, the executive director of the S.C. Sheriffs’ Association, who grew up in North Augusta, emphasized that the organization supports the Second Amendment but cannot endorse a blanket reciprocity with other states.
“We absolutely want to make sure that person has the education where they can carry when they can carry, and that they’ve demonstrated some proficiency with a firearm,” said Bruder, who added that when an active shooter is threatening lives, victims are not calling concealed-weapon permit holders.
“They’re calling law enforcement officers to respond to the scene,” he said. “We need to make sure any other person that has a firearm there is proficient in what they’re doing.”
On Tuesday, Bruder did not respond to a message.