Guns at public events

Conway Police Chief Dale Long presented a proposal to Conway City Council earlier this week that is sure to create a lot of controversy.

The chief wants a law that would make it unlawful to enter a city-permitted event held on public property while armed, even if the person carrying the gun lawfully possesses a concealed weapons permit.

Long did not come up with the idea on his own. There seems to be a growing swell of support in other South Carolina towns and cities to adop a similar ordinance.

This year, South Carolina joined the majority of states in making it legal to carry a firearm openly if the owner has received proper training.

The law specifically states weapons can be held in most public places. This puts Long’s proposal at odds with state law.

Long said he made the request for the ordinance because of his concerns for public safety.

Long, who is a supporter of the Second Amendment, said in an interview Tuesday that he wants people to feel safe when gathering at city events. He said seeing people with a gun on their hip could make people feel unsafe.

“That would cover our Christmas parade, festivals downtown, RiverFest, just incidents like that where we have city sponsored events with people coming together,” Long said.

The chief fears having people openly carrying weapons at public gatherings where emotional topics are on the agenda could lead to deadly consequences.

Long’s proposal could be difficult to enforce.

Thousands of people line the streets of Conway for the annual Christmas parade. How in the world could such a large crowd be properly policed?

Furthermore, don’t forget gun owners have lobbied long and hard for open carry legislation. I can forsee an uproar over a city ordinance that makes something lawful, unlawful.

Yet, an argument can be made in support of the proposed ordinance. Existing gun laws in South Carolina prohibit weapons at schools, courthouses and other public places.

Can this prohibition be extended to city-permitted events?

City Council did not act on Long’s proposal but the subject is bound to come up at future meetings.

When it does, I hope council will carefully consider the intent and the wording of the state’s open carry law before adopting a blanket ban on all future events sponsored by the city.

If you live in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach or Surfside Beach, don’t think the proposal before Conway City Council won’t impact you.

As mentioned earlier, other municipalities in South Carolina are considering legislation similar to that being proposed by the Conway police chief.

Elected officials are concerned, sometimes terrified, by the prospect of an armed gunman opening fire at a government-sponsored event on public property.

Gun owners would be wise to be proactive and contact their representatives on city council now instead of waiting to allow government to take matters into its own hands.

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