A couple of bills to look for on the House calendar this week include the “open carry” bill (H3094) and the “electric chair” bill (H3755).
Confusion seems to be the common thread binding the open carry bill to the contested part of the House calendar where the bill has sat for the last couple of weeks. The confusion was not limited to the House members. Many of the people who communicated with me through email, voice mail and text messages seemed unsure of what to ask me to vote for – it was almost as if some were reading from a script. Some demanded that I support H3094, others demanded that I support “open carry” without a permit, while others insisted that I support the “constitutional carry” bill (H3096) which has not made it out of the Judiciary Committee yet.
For those of you unfamiliar with the nuances between the two concepts, allow me an attempt to explain (and if you don’t agree, please don’t shoot the messenger).
H3094 Open Carry with Training Act would allow South Carolinians who meet the requirements to obtain a concealed weapons permit (CWP) to openly carry their handgun on their belt, hip, etc. or continue to conceal their handgun as they so choose. The CWP requirements include classroom instruction on handgun safety and shooting range instruction with a qualified instructor.
H3096 South Carolina Constitutional Carry Act of 2021 would allow South Carolinians to openly carry or conceal their handgun. No permit, training or instruction is required.
When debate begins on H3094, expect to see amendments from both parties put up to convert the open carry bill into a constitutional carry bill and every possible contrivance in between. I am committed to expanding gun rights in South Carolina and I will vote according to the amendments presented and to the final bill as amended.
The House is also scheduled to debate H3755 which allows prisoners who face the death penalty to elect electrocution instead of lethal injection as their means of death. Note that the South Carolina Senate has already passed and sent to the House S200 that tacks on death by firing squad to the options presented to prisoners. The Senate bill makes no mention of a blindfold or cigarette. I jest only for the sake of crying over the inclusion of death by firing squad. How did they ever leave out decapitation by guillotine?
It is no small thing for the state to intentionally take the life of a citizen. The death sentence should be carried out only after the due process of law has been followed including the use of the latest forensic DNA evidence methods.
In the USA, there have been 375 prisoners exonerated based on DNA evidence since 1989. 21 of the 375 prisoners were on death row. Around 60% of the 375 were African-American. (This data sourced from the Innocence Project.)
The following story, though based in Australia, is a good example of the twists that forensic DNA testing can lead us through.
On March 11, 2021, the BBC ran a story about Kathleen Folbigg, an Australian serial killer who was convicted in 2003 of murdering her four infant children over a 10-year period. During that period, she was accused of smothering them one by one. She was convicted and since Australia does not have the death penalty, she was sentenced to 30 years. She maintained her innocence through-out her trial and during the last 18 years in prison.
Her convictions were upheld as recently as 2019 after a detailed inquiry by an Australian court concluded that “the only conclusion reasonably open is that somebody intentionally caused harm to the children, and smothering was the obvious method. The evidence pointed to no person other than Ms. Folbigg.” They added, “that no stone has been left unturned.”
Well, apparently the court missed the big rock with “DNA” chiseled into it. According to a petition recently presented to the court demanding Ms. Folbigg’s release and pardon, over 90 physicians and scientists support the growing body of evidence that her children most likely died from an inherited genetic mutation passed on by their mother. So much for proving someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
However, the horrible fact remains that if Ms. Folbigg’s DNA exonerates her from smothering her children, that same DNA will most likely make her feel guilty for the rest of her life for unknowingly passing on the genetic mutation that killed her children.
As we debate H3755, the House should bear in mind that as we consider giving death row prisoners the choice of execution method that there is a chance that a small percentage of them may more interested in requesting new DNA testing in their cases.