South Carolina’s New Constitutional Carry Law: A Comprehensive Overview

March 10, 2024

South Carolina’s firearm landscape witnessed a transformative change as Governor Henry McMaster signed the Constitutional Carry Law into effect. This law, allowing open or concealed carry without a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP), brings about considerable adjustments to the state’s firearm regulations. This article explores the key facets of the amended state law, shedding light on its implications for residents while considering the ongoing value of a CWP.

One of the most noteworthy changes is the broadening of open carry rights to all South Carolina residents aged 18 or older. Individuals can now openly carry firearms, regardless of whether they have received training, possess a CWP, or neither. However, specific areas, such as public buildings and private businesses with designated signage, remain restricted.

Special Provisions for Churches and Schools:

The Constitutional Carry Law introduces unique provisions regarding church property and church activities on school premises. With express permission from church officials or governing bodies, individuals can carry concealable weapons on leased school premises used for church services or activities. However, these permissions apply solely during the church’s designated use of the property and within the agreed-upon areas.

Storage in Vehicles:

The new law removes restrictions on where a firearm can be stored inside a vehicle, providing individuals with increased flexibility and convenience in transporting their firearms.

CWP Eligibility and Benefits:

While the Constitutional Carry Law grants open carry rights to all eligible residents, obtaining a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) still holds significant benefits. A CWP provides individuals with essential training in responsible firearm handling, enhancing safety awareness and proficiency. Moreover, a CWP can be particularly advantageous for those planning to travel to other states that offer reciprocity agreements, allowing individuals to carry concealed weapons across state lines.

Reporting Lost or Stolen Firearms:

The law mandates that lawfully possessed or owned firearms must be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency within 10 days of discovery if lost or stolen. This reporting requirement aims to enhance accountability and assist law enforcement in tracking firearms.

Firearm Recovery and Penalties:

The law outlines specific procedures for firearm recovery by law enforcement. After a specified period, individuals who turn in a handgun may request its return, provided they cover all associated costs. However, firearms will not be returned to individuals prohibited by state or federal law from possessing or receiving a handgun. Unclaimed firearms may be disposed of through sale in accordance with applicable regulations.

Stiffened Penalties:

The new law imposes stricter penalties for the illegal use or possession of firearms. Violations of Section 16-23-20 are now subject to escalating penalties, with third and subsequent offenses classified as felonies, carrying a maximum imprisonment term of five years.

Representative Stewart Jones (SC House District 14) has been a strong proponent of Constitutional carry and had the following to say when we reached out to him, “While serving House District 14, I have fought over the last five years to defend and advance our Second Amendment rights. Efforts to pass Constitutional Carry go back over a decade in South Carolina. Part of this historic legislation ensures that law-abiding citizens have the right to keep and bear arms without permission from the government, protecting themselves and their loved ones while preserving our Second Amendment rights. I am proud to have sponsored and helped pass Constitutional Carry while serving in the South Carolina State House!”

Looking ahead, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) plans to develop a firearm training program for the public. Additionally, a list of certified instructors will be made available once funding is allocated. These initiatives aim to promote responsible firearm ownership and enhance public safety.

South Carolina’s Constitutional Carry Law marks a significant evolution in the state’s firearm regulations, offering residents expanded rights while emphasizing the ongoing benefits of a Concealed Weapons Permit. As individuals navigate these changes, the importance of safe and responsible firearm ownership, coupled with the potential advantages of a CWP, remains paramount.

Photo: Governor McMaster signs Constitutional Carry bill into law.