South Carolina governor signs bill legalizing permitless concealed carry of firearms

Gun Rights

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill Thursday permitting concealed and open carry for firearms throughout the state.

The so-called “constitutional carry” bill allows individuals who are 18 and above and legally able to own a firearm to carry that firearm either openly or concealed. The bill does not require any registration or training for a permit to do so. Concealed weapons permits are still available for gun owners who wish to have their right to carry recognized in other states via reciprocity laws. 16 other states currently allow legal carry through reciprocity agreements with South Carolina without any other restrictions.

The bill includes certain restrictions on “constitutional carry” by restricting the possession of firearms at many government buildings, law enforcement and correctional facilities, schools, daycares and polling places. Firearm possession at hospitals, churches, doctors offices and personal residences are subject to the express permission of the appropriate entity. Businesses have the discretion to designate themselves as gun free zones with clearly visible signage that the premise prohibits the carrying of firearms on the property.

McMaster touted the bill on X (formerly Twitter) for expanding the US Constitution’s Second Amendment gun rights and increasing penalties against “violent criminals” for “illegal gun use and possession.” The bill was sponsored by Bobby Cox, who is also the Vice President of Government Affairs at gun maker SIG-SAUER, and had support from the National Rifle Association (NRA) who also praised the bill for strengthening “self-defense” rights.

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When the bill was reached the state Senate in May 2023, the omission of any training for gun owners to carry weapons in public drew criticism from some, including retired US Army Ranger and gun store owner, Jay Harris, who called the omission a “huge safety concern.” Wendy Regoeczi, a Criminology and Criminal Justice professor at the University of South Carolina, expressed skepticism saying, “[T]he jury is still out on the impacts of permitless carrying on homicide or violent crime in general.” But Regoeczi did point towards research showing that states allowing concealed weapon carry have had increases in the homicide rate. Permitless carry is now legal in 27 US states.

Concealed carry laws have been yet another flashpoint for legal action over Second Amendment rights, actions that have included a US Supreme Court decision in New York, a Kentucky case in the state’s Supreme Court, court orders blocking a bill banning concealed carry in public places in California and a bill in Florida that legalized permitless concealed weapon carry.

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