As another shooting in Five Points brings crime issues in the entertainment district back into the forefront of the minds of people in Columbia, there is a new push for safety.
The man leading the new effort, Joe McCulloch, sent a letter to business owners in Five Points, The Vista, and Main Street asking for all businesses to put up signs that say "No Concealable Weapons Allowed".
"This stuff can be prevented, but it's going to take a concerted effort," said McCulloch.
Earlier this year, a bill passed allowing concealed weapons in places that serve alcohol, but merchants have the right to put up a sign banning concealed weapons.
Jon Sears is co-owner of Jake's, Pavlov's, and The Bird Dog in Columbia's Five Points.
"There's just been a couple of very public events that have really made it look like it's really bad down here," said Sears.
He doesn't want any problems at his establishments, so he's taking steps to cover his bases.
"I'm a gun owner myself and I have a concealed weapons permit, so it's certainly not an anti-gun thing. It's just that I don't want to let anybody get into the position where they could make a very, very bad choice," said Sears.
For McCulloch, the plan is all about safety
"Leave your guns in the trunk of your car. Don't turn Five Points, The Vista, or any other area into Tombstone territory," said McCulloch.
Marcel Melo, manager of Cover 3, has had his sign up for more than a month.
"I think that people will respect the sign, hopefully, and not carry a weapon in a bar. It's not very conducive to good business, I don't think," said Melo.
The signs can't stop someone from bringing in a gun and the bar owners know that.
"If they're going to bring them in, they're going to bring them in regardless," said Melo.
If the signs are up, the owners have more protection.
"Doesn't mean that people won't bring guns in violation of that sign, but if they do that, they're violating the law. They're subject to prosecution, they're also subject to being denied in a court of law, that Stand Your Ground defense that has become very popular lately," explained McCulloch.
Sears and Melo say the increased attention on recent shootings in Five Points has affected business.
"Ninety-five percent of the establishments down here, you see a good clientele. That's what I keep hearing, from students especially, they feel safe in the bars, it's outside of the bars that's the problem. That's what we need to worry about. Those people that are bringing an unsavory element to Five Points," said Sears.
McCulloch hopes his push for more signs will help more people feel safe and prevent more tragedies from happening.
He says he has talked with Mayor Benjamin and is also talking with city officials throughout the state.
McCulloch's push for posting these signs comes one day after filing to run again for House District 75. The Democrat lost that race in 2012 to Republican state Rep. Kirkman Finlay.
Finlay is a Five Points business owner who said last month he would not post signs prohibiting concealed weapons in his restaurant, making the point that his patrons aren't the problem -- it's those outside breaking laws.
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