COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — Senator Dick Harpootlian (D-Richland) said he is planning to file a bill that would create harsher penalties in South Carolina for someone convicted of illegally carrying a gun.
Sen. Harpootlian said on the Senate floor he is looking to introduce legislation after Saturday’s Columbiana Centre shooting. Police say 9 people were hit in the crossfire and six others injured in the scramble to get out of the busy shopping mall.
“This course of conduct is so epidemic, it is challenging and destroying the fabric of our society,” Harpootlian said.
Currently, under South Carolina law, the illegal carrying charge carries up to a one year sentence and up to a $1,000 fine. It is also considered a misdemeanor.
Harpootlian said he wants to make it a felony.
“I’ll propose an increase to make it a one year mandatory minimum for carrying of a pistol unlawfully. That bond be set by a circuit court judge, not a magistrate and that the Solicitor be prohibited from reducing the charge.”
Some Senate Republicans questioned Harpootlian on the impact this bill could have on someone’s second amendment rights.
“Anytime some talks about changing any laws that effect the Second Amendment, it always peaks my interest,” said Sen. Tom Corbin (R-Greenville). “Since I’m a big defender of the Second Amendment. We’ll have to look and see what comes of this.”
“I’m not doing anything to affect your ability to carry a weapon if you have a permit,” Harpootlian said.
The bill hasn’t been introduced yet. It has about four weeks to get to the Governor’s desk before the end of the regular legislative session on May 12.
Harpootlian said he’s had House members and other Senators approach him about getting the bill through.
“We’ve got to get aggressive about this,” he said.