South Carolina’s New Open Carry Law Explained

April 30, 2024
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Criminal Defense

South Carolina’s new open carry law took effect on March 7th. Governor Henry McMaster held a ceremonial signing on March 19th of the highly controversial law. While the new law makes it easier for legal gun owners to open carry, it does increase penalties for illegal gun use and possession.

Harsher penalties and expanding gun rights have been a source of confusion across the state. The team at Barboza Law is here to help clarify the new law and explain how it may impact you in the future.

SC New Gun Law Simplified

According to the new Constitutional Carry law, South Carolina residents can open carry a handgun without a permit or training. This is an expansion of the 2021 Open Carry with Training Act, which allowed residents to openly carry their handguns only with a concealed weapons permit.

Amid the confusion, SC law enforcement officials recently held a public forum to clear up any misunderstanding of the new law. To simplify the changes:

  • You can now openly carry a pistol or handgun inside your vehicle
  • Gun training is encouraged but no longer required
  • If you are 18 or over and are not otherwise prohibited from owning a handgun, you can open carry without a concealed weapons permit (CWP)
  • Firearms are still prohibited in specific locations
  • Privately owned facilities are still allowed to prohibit firearms if they are displaying the official no guns placard
  • You have a strict 10 days to report your weapon being stolen
  • You still have to submit to a background check when purchasing a firearm
  • All firearms must be purchased from a licensed dealer

The new laws only apply to pistols and handguns. Automatic weapons are still prohibited. No one may possess, own, store, rent, or sell a machine gun unless federally authorized.  

Does This Mean I Can Have My Handgun Anywhere?

Legally carrying your handgun does not mean you can have it anywhere. The list of places where you cannot carry your handgun or pistol still applies.

The new open carry law still enacts strict penalties for carrying a firearm in the following prohibited locations:

  • Schools, daycares, preschools
  • Police stations
  • Detention facilities
  • Offices of a governing body, including county, municipality, or public school district
  • Hospitals or medical facilities
  • Government buildings
  • Active courtrooms
  • Polling places
  • Places of worship
  • Any private entity that displays a “No Concealable Weapons Allowed” sign

In addition, South Carolina’s new open carry law only applies to those legally able to own a firearm in the first place.

Who Cannot Own a Pistol or Handgun in South Carolina?

Despite the expansion of gun rights, there are still restrictions in place for possessing a firearm. You cannot own a firearm if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You have been convicted of a felony, criminal domestic violence, a crime of violence, or a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 1-year or more
  • You are currently awaiting trial for felony charges
  • You are on parole or probation
  • You have been declared mentally incompetent by a court
  • You are under a domestic order of protection that prohibits the possession of a firearm
  • You are a fugitive
  • You are a drug addict
  • You are an illegal alien or under a non-immigrant visa
  • You are a dishonorably discharged veteran
  • You have been ordered to surrender any and all firearms

If you are charged with illegal possession, the new law enhances the penalties.

What are the New Enhanced Penalties?

The new Constitutional Carry bill passed the Senate with certain additions, including graduated penalties for weapons violations.

  • It is now a state crime for a felon to possess a handgun, pistol, or other firearm or ammunition
  • Illegal possession can carry up to 5 years in prison for a 1st offense
  • Penalties increase to 10 years and 30 years for 2nd and 3rd offenses

If you are arrested for illegal possession of a firearm, a South Carolina criminal defense lawyer may be able to help. Barboza Law has helped numerous people facing serious criminal charges.

How a Rock Hill Firearms Defense Lawyer from Barboza Law Can Help

With every new law that expands gun rights, penalties are getting tougher. If you are facing gun charges, you need a skilled and experienced Rock Hill criminal defense lawyer by your side. Attorney Barboza will fight tirelessly for your best interests.

Every person’s situation is different. We will discuss the details of your case and help strategize the best course of action for a favorable outcome. Call today and schedule your consultation with Attorney Barboza at (803) 973-6003.

New Open Carry Law FAQs

What if I was Convicted of Illegally Carrying a Firearm Before the New Law? According to Section 20 Chapter 1, Title 17 of the S.C. Code, if you have been convicted of unlawful possession of a handgun prior to the bill’s enactment, you can apply to have your criminal record expunged. Keep in mind, your application must be made within 5 years of the enactment of this section (S.C. Constitutional Carry/Second Amendment Preservation Act of 2023).

Can I Open Carry My Handgun in Lancaster if I’m From Out of Town? If you are from another state, the permit less carry law does not apply unless your state is also permit less and reciprocates with South Carolina. Otherwise, you must have a concealed weapons permit that reciprocates with SC.