In a series of head-scratching moves, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster stomped on the rights of women, made the state a less desirable tourist destination and contributed to the spread of a deadly virus. He made these moves with the help of Republicans in the state legislature. Though he claims these moves were to benefit all South Carolinians, the facts belie this. Instead, he is creating a recipe for disaster.
Despite Donald Trump and Republicans making the false claims of “a rigged system” and a “stolen election”, Republicans did quite well in the 2020 when it came to state-wide races. No one talks about that, but by winning the statehouses, they were able to make or propose changes to many long-standing laws. By winning, or holding on to, several governors’ races, they ensured that the restrictive policies enacted by the state legislatures would be signed into law, despite being opposed by a majority of Americans. These included limitations on abortions, expanding access to firearms, voter suppression and the politicization of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since its victory by Pro-Choice advocates in Roe v Wade, Republicans have been seeking to overturn the decision to allow women to make choices regarding their healthcare, particularly when it comes to family planning. Despite a majority of Americans supporting a woman’s right to choose, Republicans in several states have passed laws aimed at limiting, or even outright banning, this right. They are hoping, with a Conservative majority in the Supreme Court, that these laws will be challenged, setting up a battle to overturn the current state of affairs.
It is under this mindset that Governor McMaster signed the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, effectively eliminating access to legal abortions in the state. In signing the bill into law, McMaster made the oft repeated claim of “protecting the rights of the unborn”, while he alternately condemned women seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies to resort to pre-Roe means of back-alley abortions which are often performed in less than sterile settings.
It is now legal for South Carolinians to openly display their “manhood”. In declaring the state a “Second Amendment Sanctuary”, McMaster signed into law a bill allowing those who have a concealed carry permit to openly carry their weapons. This means anyone visiting the state can visibly view these transparent efforts at intimidation.
In a feat of acrobatic logic, McMaster claimed that Open Carry would make people feel safer. Using the “Good Guy with a Gun” analogy, he reasoned that crime would be less likely if criminals saw that there were others around them willing to stop a crime. He further reasoned that just because someone had a gun, doesn’t mean they had to use it.
Of course someone who pays hundreds of dollars for something is going to want to use it. While there are laws limiting where Open Carry is allowed, and businesses are permitted to refuse to allow Open Carry, the sheer proliferation of firearms makes it risky to deny entry to certain patrons.
Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in South Carolina. How safe might someone visiting the state feel if they view multiple people openly displaying their firearms? People will surely feel less safe resulting in a precipitous drop in this vital source of revenue.
Voter intimidation is another issue that can be influenced by Open Carry. While there will certainly be restrictions around polling places, nothing can stop a “law abiding citizen” from being just outside the limits of these restrictions as a means of discouraging those they deem undesirable from exercising their Constitutional right to cast their ballots.
When Georgia enacted its own Open Carry law in 2017, it saw an increase in gun related fatalities. Given these facts, it’s hard to see how it could make South Carolina safer.
Masks and Vaccines
After months of declining coronavirus cases, numbers are rising once again due to those who are refusing to get vaccinated. Despite this, Governor McMaster has refused to issue vaccine requirements for state workers and has even declared that mask mandates for schools is somehow illegal.
Citing the same “personal freedom” claim that he used to defend his Open Carry gun law, yet one he conveniently ignores when it comes to a woman’s right to choose, McMaster stated that it was a matter of personal responsibility if someone wanted to be vaccinated or not. Instead, he is willing to allow the virus to continue to spread, possibly resulting in a further variants to occur that are immune to current vaccines.
Like the governors in Florida and Texas, as well as other Republican-led states, McMaster is pandering to the conspiracy theorists on the far right when it comes to protecting the public. This makes him a danger to those he is supposed to serve. His reliance on innuendo and rumors will continue to allow the virus to spread.
With his stance on women’s rights, his distorted interpretation of the Second Amendment and his refusal to acknowledge the hazards of denying vaccine and mask mandates, Governor McMaster is indeed a disaster!