It's a generally accepted rule there are two things you do not discuss in mixed company, such as at a party: politics and religion. Bring one of those up and in little or no time at all the party ends.
Add a third topic to that list: gun control.
It is difficult to find any middle ground on that one. Actually, when you do find middle ground, it seems those on either end of the two extremes come out swinging and shouting.
Ah, but it is a good thing - overall - a national discussion is taking place. Not always a rational discussion, mind you, but national. It took a while, or so it seems, for that discussion to reach Columbia, but our lawmakers finally figured they better get in the fray in some form or fashion.
They're not discussing anything about trying to halt the private sale of guns in the state, which, if we are all honest about this, is but one way those who would not pass a background check cheat the system. True, such a measure would affect otherwise law-abiding residents who might buy and sell guns among friends in much the same way other collectors buy, trade and sell coins, rare books and baseball cards. Still, it is a viable option worthy of exploration in these troubled times.

INSTEAD, OUR LAWMAKERS are having to consider whether the Palmetto State might come under attack from the sea again, in which case we need to be sure each and every able-bodied man and woman can stand ready to defend its borders with whatever weaponry it wants and is, at this point, legally obtainable.
Another facet of the discussion in Columbia centers on broadening the scope of where legal holders of Concealed Weapons Permits can carry their weapons. In particular, legislation has been put forward that would allow CWP holders to carry inside restaurants that serve alcohol. As the law stands now in the state, there are a few places CWP holders cannot carry a weapon, and if you believe the basic tenet that CWP holders are, by the very fact they received training and background checks, law-abiding residents who likely do not pose a threat, then you'd have to smirk a little when considering the places CWP holders are not wanted while armed.
No bars or other establishments that serve alcohol, such as sit-down restaurants. I get the thinking behind this, but in a way, it raises the notion that CWP holders are law-abiding all the way up until they are within range of alcohol. Heck, they don't even have to be drinking it, just be in the same room.

APPARENTLY LAWMAKERS ALSO THINK law-abiding CWP holders are more likely to lose it and use it if allowed to carry their concealed weapons to a good Sunday morning worship service. Parishioners might disagree, even vehemently, with the minister's sermon, but it's not the legal CWP holders who should be of concern. Still, if alcohol and guns don't mix, well, I guess religion and guns don't either. CWP holders cannot go into the courtroom, can't enter the county tax office to pay a property tax bill. Let's face it. Lawmakers probably got this one right. If anything might make an otherwise law-abiding citizen go off, it's the government.
But one of these areas might change. Lawmakers are considering lifting the ban on CWP holders being in establishments that serve alcohol. There is even debate on whether such a change would prohibit CPW holders from having a drink. This would lead to some discussion among friends. Who's going to be the designated driver will now include asking who's going to be the designated carrier of a concealed weapon.
In truth, no restaurant owner can guarantee the safety of any patron walking to and from his establishment, but CWP holders who are trained in the proper use and handling of their handguns and who possibly stand a better chance at defending themselves, are, under current law, made to leave their weapons at home or locked inside their cars when patronizing restaurants where alcohol is served. That same argument can be made of any establishment, and gun-rights advocates have long argued CWP holders who are made to leave their weapons at home or locked in a car should be able to sue businesses if they are injured or robbed on the business' property because the business posted "no concealed weapons" signs.

THIS DISCUSSION WILL LIKELY CARRY on a while, and I admit to being a bit torn on this one because, generally speaking, I'd have to agree guns and alcohol are not a good mix. But I'd also be inclined to believe, once again, it's not the person who had a background check, who passed a thorough test and became a law-abiding holder of a Concealed Weapons Permit who I should worry about when out for dinner and a drink. No, it's the person with criminal intent, the one who is inside robbing the place or outside robbing its patrons in the parking lot. It's the person who could care less if there is a sign posted right next to the restaurant's "A" rating from DHEC, the sign that reads "No Concealed Weapons." Yeah, that's always been a deterrent to the one hell-bent on committing a crime.
Consider something. When's the last time you were about to enter a convenience store and saw a guy suddenly stop at the door, spin around and say "Damn! Can't rob this place 'cause they don't allow concealed weapons."

Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email rwhiting@indexjournal.com ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.