For out-of-staters with licenses to carry firearms, South Carolina has been a bit of an outlier in the old south. While the other states in Dixie tend to recognize out-of-state licenses rather freely (and in many cases, regardless of whether a reciprocity agreement exists) the Palmetto State has kept the number of out-of-state licenses it recognizes to just two-fifths of the other states in the Union. It’s unclear at first glance why this is the case. Residents of Yankee locales that are more freedom-oriented in their carry laws and don’t require training (or, in some cases, even a license to carry) — such as Vermont, Pennsylvania, or Montana — are left out in the cold while visiting, but residents from states with much more onerous training requirements for carry licenses — such as Rhode Island, Illinois, or Washington — are out of luck, too. To make matters worse, South Carolina only offers a permit to non-residents that own property in their state . . .

I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised — zealously guarding state sovereignty is something of a hallowed tradition for Palmetto state residents, and their elected representatives have been content to keep the system as-is for a while. Still, as someone who’s rejected Hilton Head as a vacation destination in the past due to the lack of reciprocity (Dear South Carolina: you line up with Chicago and Baltimore in my vacation-planning book,) I was heartened to see that the legislature in Columbia was moving forward with a bill that could partially change that. The Associated Press reports the story as follows (via Bluffton Today):

The South Carolina House passed a bill on Thursday that would eliminate the need to get a concealed weapons permit to carry guns in public in the state.

An unexpected move rewrote a bill that would have allowed South Carolina to accept concealed weapons permits from Georgia. The change caused the normally quick debate in the House to grind to a halt for a few hours before the bill passed 90-18.

Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, said his bill is a good compromise because people would still have to keep their guns hidden from view in public but would not have to go through hours of training for a constitutional right.

“I firmly believe in the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Literally,” said Pitts, a former police officer….

Opponents of the bill said the hours of training currently required to get a concealed weapons permit is important to make sure people stay safe. Also, because people who get guns as gifts or who buy them in private transactions like at gun shows don’t have to undergo background checks, that means some people could carry guns who haven’t passed a criminal check or a mental health check, said Rep. James Smith.

“Do we want to add a number of untrained people carrying weapons? I don’t think that is going to make our state safer,” said Smith, D-Columbia….

The bill also addresses a number of other firearms carry issues. The licensing regime survives intact (after all, one would still need a license for open carry, and also for out-of-state reciprocity purposes,) although it would no longer be necessary for in-state concealed carry. In a big step forward, recognition would be automatically granted to all out-of-state licenses. The bill would reduce the penalty for carrying a firearm into a business which sells alcoholic beverages for consumption on-premises to a maximum of two years in jail (a conviction under which would still makes you prohibited from owning firearms per federal law, of course).

In that case, a crime is committed if the firearms carrier was: (1) carrying a firearm into the establishment where the prohibition on weapons was conspicuously posted, or (2) was asked to leave by the person legally in control of the premises, or (3) consumed any alcohol at all while on the premises. (Perhaps encouraging a bit of “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” kabuki theater.)

In addition, the bill also requires South Carolina to honor “Valid out-of-state permits to carry concealable weapons held by a resident of another state.”

It seems to torture the word “constitutional” beyond recognition to call H.3025 a “constitutional” carry bill, simply because it seems daft to argue that one has a constitutional right to carry a concealed firearm, but not the open carriage of the same. Instead, let’s call this an “imperfect” constitutional carry. “Imperfect” because it is an incomplete version of constitutional carry.

South Carolina is indeed cutting a strange path here. Historically, as the U.S. Supreme Court noted in District of Columbia v. Heller, open carry has been legally favored a bit more than concealed carry. The Heller Court cited a Louisiana Supreme Court decision, State v. Chandler that held that citiens had a right to open carry of firearms: “This is the right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, and which is calculated to incite men to a manly and noble defence of themselves, if necessary, and of their country, without any tendency to secret advantages and unmanly assassinations.” My own state of Pennsylvania has always had imperfect (open) constitutional carry — as have a few other states. Why is South Carolina starting with the concealed side of the coin?

 

S.C. State Senator Larry A. Martin (R-Pickens).

The exclusion of open carry from the bill may be a tactical maneuver to make the bill more palatable to the Senate. Last year, a constitutional carry bill was killed in committee by Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin (R-Pickens), who at the time, averred, “You can carry a weapon openly if this bill is adopted and I’m offended by that.”

Restricting the natural and constitutionally-protected rights of its residents based on what certain elected officials find “offensive” is also–sadly–something that is not foreign to South Carolina, either.

I’ll be frank: I find South Carolina’s approach to the issue to be a little offensive myself. Sen. Martin’s attitude appears to be a typical one for the South Carolinians who have crafted the laws on the issue lo these many years. The laws encourage people that are carrying a firearm to hide what they’re doing at every step — to stay ‘in the gun closet’, if you will. This is not the attitude of a free people. This is not the approach that will ensure the security of our liberties beyond this generation. If carrying a firearm is something always to conceal, something always to be embarrassed about, a necessary evil purely in response to crises of foreign aggression outside and criminal activity at home, and not an act of a free and proud person exercising a basic right, then it will wither in times that do not feel the burn of those crises.

Despite all of this, I do think that the bill is a step forward. I don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the “good enough”. And in this case, “good enough” means flattering powerful but recalcitrant Senators’ prejudices enough to take a few steps in the right direction. At the same time, we should not forget that “good enough” should only be a way-station on the road to the perfect. At least, in the case of firearms laws.

(Hat tip: Jacob S.)

 

DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice on this subject, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.

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58 Responses to South Carolina House Passes Imperfect Constitutional Carry Bill

  1. I simply do no understand the nuances of difference between open and concealed carry in the mind of the anti’s. I mean, they seem fine with one but not the other, or the other but not the one. Exactly what difference does it make. Here in Virginia, we have Constitutional open carry. But you need some training (DD 214 is proof) and a background check, just like buying a gun for concealed. So exactly why is it so much more onerous to carry concealed? I open carried for several years before getting a CWP. It seems easier, and sometimes polite, just to cover it up. But if anyone can carry open and “guns are a problem” then why the different standards? The whole duplicitous mindset boggles me completely. From a strictly logical perspective, either carrying guns is Constitutional or it’s not. Splitting hairs about how they are carried seems, dumb.

    • The very obvious answer is that guns scare the sheeple, particularly soccer moms. If they don’t see them, they are not afraid. The example is California, which in 1968 outlawed loaded open carry, an enactment that pretty much did away with open carry, since what is the point of carrying an unloaded gun? Well, in 2012, open carry advocate started carrying in public places, at the Boardwalk, at Starbucks, and so forth, mostly in San Diego and San Jose. Due to the massive number of “OMG! MWG!” calls to 9-1-1, by the end of 2012, a law was passed to ban open carrying of handguns. And just the threat of people carrying rifles instead lead to a long gun ban a year later.

      When all of those concealed carry bans were passed in the mid-19th century, open carry was the norm. Today, concealed carry is the norm.

    • I’ll take a stab at an answer.
      The Antis want no guns whatsoever in the hands of civilians. The path to that end is to make guns non-PC in polite society. If they can accomplish this goal then they can whittle away the RKBA.

      OC is just fine provided that no one actually practices OC. The Antis are not going to make a stink that OC doesn’t require a permit. No one would OC in Delaware. Nor does anyone OC in OK. TX terrifies them because they threaten to OC widely.

      There is nothing to fight in Delaware nor Oklahoma. Every tine a bill comes up anywhere, whether to loosen the requirements for OK or CC, the Antis will fight it.

      Assuming I’m correct, we not only have to get OC passed in places like TX and FL, we need to gradually introduce the practice in a tasteful and political manner in these jurisdictions. We also need to introduce OC in places like OK and DE. The more the population gets accustomed to seeing people carrying – i.e., OCing – the less anxious they will be about relaxing the gun laws in their State.

      Imagine you are trying to reduce the training requirement or the fee for a permit in some State. Just the fact that you are relaxing a gun law is going to bring-out-the-Antis who will howl at the moon. If everyone in that State has grown accustomed to the fact that they see a couple of OCiers each day they are out-and-about then it will be really hard for the Antis to get traction with the voters. After a couple of rounds of reducing the burdens on getting a CWP the chances will improve that Constitutional Carry might pass.

      • I may be in the minority, but I OC in Wilmington, DE and sometimes in Newark. (The U of D makes me hesitant there sometimes though.)

      • I OC’d in Delaware plenty of times when I lived there for a few years. And there is an active group of open carriers in that state that meets monthly at a restaurant (location varies).

    • I wonder if they are afraid that people will get used to seeing guns in public so that the stigma, and “lawlessness,” they are trying to imbue on the carrying of a firearm is lost!

        • That’s an understatement.

          The foundation of the entire anti gun effort is culture change toward making it socially untenable for any citizen to “Keep and Bear Arms”. This major part of the liberal “progressive” (in reality ‘regressive’) agenda began with expanding and propagandizing an anti gun mentality in higher education, then infecting the media and primary education via liberal arts trained media workers and mostly female teachers easily misled into the ‘progressive’ oriented ‘feeling’ mentality based on misrepresentations and lies.

          We’re seeing the results today with how many people, particularly women, view those of us who keep and bear as outside societal norms because of their learned (brainwashed) biases based not on true knowledge or experience, but on what they’ve been fed by progressive anti gunners of all stripes and reinforced daily by big media for some time.

          Now, it’s all out in the open. Only time will tell if the tide of propaganda and brainwashing can be reversed.

        • The ground is tilled and the seeds sown in day care, preschool, and K-12. That’s one of the primary reasons I contest only agents of government being visibly armed in such places. It reinforces the notion that government is responsible for individual safety instead of them seeing mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, uncle, aunt, older siblings, neighbor, etc being responsible for their own safety everyday. If it continues the way it is now, those young minds will always defer to government to take care of them; cradle to grave.

  2. The laws encourage people that are carrying a firearm to hide what they’re doing at every step — to stay ‘in the gun closet’, if you will. This is not the attitude of a free people. This is not the approach that will ensure the security of our liberties beyond this generation. If carrying a firearm is something always to conceal, something always to be embarrassed about, a necessary evil purely in response to crises of foreign aggression outside and criminal activity at home, and not an act of a free and proud person exercising a basic right, then it will wither in times that do not feel the burn of those crises.

    Spot on! Thank you for expressing the concept so eloquently.

    • When the typical gun owner is willing to engrave his name on his firearm, because he’s no more concerned about the government’s reaction than he would be about his big screen TV, then we will have won.

  3. Yeah what is the deal with South Carolina? I grew up in Fla. but have spent most of my adult life in Pennsylvania. My LTCF is good to go all of the way down except for MD and SC. You’re not in good company SC.

    • PA’s attorney general is the one that k?illed the reciprocal agreement. Only open carry in SC is on duty police, uniformed licensed security or armored transport, or hunting while afield. It took us 25 years and a Democratic governor to get concealed carry. 8 hour class is small price to even be allowed to exercise the right. Part of our problem is all the blue starters selling out in NJ,NY,CT moving here and wanting everything exactly like they had up there. But taxes.@ 1/3. I-95Goes North don’t like it go back. Personally thanks to tax increases I’ll be using I-10. Just as soon as I can sell the house. Not even taking most furniture. Even my Doctors are leaving due to socialized mmedicine, hospital forcing sale of practices or loss of privilege.

      • As much as I enjoy busting on Kane about reciprocity, as in the “Florida Loophole” and watching her term as AG disentegrate, the lack of recognition on the part of South Carolina of Pennsylvania’s LTCF predates Kane.

        • Not sure if this is properly directed, but can someone point to where in the US Constitution it says anyone who wishes to speak, print a news rag, or peaceably assemble, or practice a religion, must take an 8- or any other hour course in order to do so? I have looked. Can’t find it. Also, can’t find such a requirement for “bearing arms”.

        • I was. One of the last to be able to get in a non-resident CCW in Carbon County. PA killed it prior to SC.

  4. I’ve said before that it is worth considering that concealed carry should be permit-less, and if a permit is required, it be required only for open carry. So, it is interesting to see South Carolina taking this tack.

    To make matters worse, South Carolina only offers a permit to non-residents that own property in their state…

    This sounds racist. Who, pray tell, would such a law, when originally enacted, be attempting to disarm?

    • The property clause became law around 2003. The plan was to issue non-resident licenses but they didn’t have the votes, so they amended it to include out of state property owners as a resident.

      Oregon has similar language as well, so a renter or vacation home owner can apply the same as a resident.

      • Indeed, I considered seeing if I could make a storage rental count for that clause in OR. As it happens, apparently I don’t need to take that tack; the nearby Sheriff is relatively open about his neighbors getting CHLs from him.

    • Property owner originally read voter, but DOJ said racist. SC has a history of people living here for years with cars registered to other states with cheaper insurance. Courts have interpreted property to mean anything car, land, anything that’s chattel you pay tax on.
      Myrtle Beach. has sold 52 Golf Courses to the Chinese with sweetheart tax deals. They are buying land left & right Tourism was the industry now Myrtle Beach. wants it gone. With Black Bike Week coming Memorial Day and the riots in MD I’m not burying my head but TX,AZ,NM even Mississippi looks better with less or equal taxes and better pay. Gander Mountain sold out of $149 Hi-Points at grand opening Friday. Some resale but, I saw 20 in my Sunday. CCW class. All bought for protection. I hate the heat since Iraq but I refuse to live in a Dixiecrat State any longer. Selling my house at a loss if I can find a buyer since road widening will take 2/3 of my land under imminent domain price. Riots in the streets would you see this in TX or the other states I mentioned.

      I realize the entire country is gone to hell in a handbasket but time to go where people will back you up
      When your wife says let’s go you know it’s time.

  5. “South Carolina only offers a permit to non-residents that own property in their state . . .”

    How much property? Just saying a gun-friendly someone could clean up selling 5’x5′ plots of open land.

  6. So about a month ago I went to my LGS here in PA to determine how to go about obtaining a permit to carry concealed in SC, as we have a family vacation coming up. I was told that I would have to obtain a Multi-state permit (i.e. Utah) in addition to a permit that is honored by SC for non-residents (such as a Virginia permit). Does anyone have any thoughts on how this bill will affect the process for legally carrying concealed from PA down to SC?

    • Looks like you are out of luck entirely unless/until this bill goes through; SC only honors resident permits (not the non-resident permit you’d get for UT and/or VA), and PA is not on the list of states the recognize.

  7. Autoplay videos in the ads are forcing my screen to the top every time they restart. And now they can’t be paused.

  8. “…but residents from states with much more onerous training requirements for carry licenses — such as Rhode Island, Illinois, or Washington — are out of luck, too.

    Ummm… FYI… there is no training requirement for a Washington CPL. FBI background check (with fingerprints) is all that’s required.

  9. Dear TTAG,

    I love your content but your site bogs my computers and phone down to the point where it’s almost not accessible.
    Please fix ASAP,

    Your multiple-times-a-day reader,
    Seth

    • Yup,

      There is no re-legalization of open carry in this bill. The TTAG author made an error.

      I just hope this “constitution” carry amendment doesn’t kill the bill.

      SC is long over due for universal recognition of out of state permits instead of their discriminatory “home state” permit system nonsense.

  10. ““I firmly believe in the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Literally,” said Pitts, a former police officer….”

    Well, that’s a shocking change of pace from the usual, “I believe in the second amendment, BUT…”
    Glad to see it.

  11. (Dear South Carolina: you line up with Chicago)…then go enjoy the beach there…I bet they’ll honor a PA permit..or not

  12. As Vermont and California are beginning to force invasive medical procedures on the public, and as many more states are considering the same, all this hair splitting debate about rules and permits for guns is almost funny. When the state takes control of your body, what meaningful rights do you really have?

  13. Heller and Miller are very clear: Open carry cannot be regulated outside of sensitive places. Concealed carry can be regulated or banned outside the home. You also have a right to any weapon used by soldiers.

  14. Larry Martin is a RINO, plain and simple. Along with 3 other members of the Judiciary Committee who claim to be Republicans. That is why open carry died last year. Arizona is looking better all the time.

    • If you go to Arizona you want to live in the Valley or Tucson. Northern AZ sucks, it’s only good for hunting Elk. I’m originally from AZ and since they passed open carry I have really missed it.

  15. Time and again I’ll repeat until the words seep into the core of everyone’s brain. It is not about OC or CC but the denial of law self protection by the most effective tool created by man.

    EVERY word, law or person restricting this right is cupable to murder, rape, burglary, and robbery.

  16. How about this. The current code in SC contains this:
    SECTION 16-23-20. Unlawful carrying of handgun; exceptions.

    It is unlawful for anyone to carry about the person any handgun, whether concealed or not, except as follows, unless otherwise specifically prohibited by law:

    (4) licensed hunters or fishermen who are engaged in hunting or fishing or going to or from their places of hunting or fishing while in a vehicle or on foot;

    This seems like a nice little loop hole for the good ol’ boys.

  17. Grew up here in SC and I’ll be the first to admit it’s a corrupt RINO filled statist government that only cares about lining the pockets of their buddies in the tourism and development business. Texas here I come, the Yankees can have Charleston and its wretched statist politicians.

    • 21 and up. You can take your CCW class now and apply on your 21st birthday according to current law.

    • SC has some unusual firearms laws an FFL cannot sell a pistol to anyone under 21 but as a private citizen I can sell or purchase a pistol from an 18 y/o without even knowing the persons name. A number of years ago I had to send a P99 back for warranty work on a private purchase guy had reported it stolen for insurance money, at that time SC had a a 1 every 30 purchase & a special pistol form that’s how it showed up. Luckily I had made the guy do a bill of sale. Whole point being if you are not CYA with a 4473 do a simple bill of sale & make the person sign it also check the DL or CCW to make sure they are in state or have a copy of military orders. If it doesn’t feel right walk. I personally turned down an offer of $1200 yesterday for a Ruger Security Six from a 19 year old. The sale would have been legal & I need the bucks to cover putting down my best friend. Turns out the guy was working with a reporter doing an anti2A story for a Northern newspaper, they gave him a fake I.D. (hologram, barcode. Expensive & good fake). This is how desperate the “news?” & Bloomberg et am have become.
      I
      Personally I don’t believe in open carry and constitutional carry is a given but I would seriously like to see @ least minimal basics such as loading safe handling required with purchase at a store. For private sales get 3-4 together & buy me à box of ammo or few bucks for gas & I’ll donate a few hours à week to help get newbies started. Right now I know several of us retired old farts that would do it now. If any of you in Horry, Georgetown or Brunswick counties want basics on your guns post it be happy to go over safety, how to take your weapons apart for cleaning & lube even how to load. Guy bought a high-point 4/16 grand opening special at Gander, he approached me in the parking lot as I walked out with my purchase helped him out. He had been inside 2 X but they knew less than any gun employee have seen Sig & Glock àre completely different, but they did know that.

  18. Bronson’s character: “What has happened to us?” (meaning humans in America)

    His friend: “We got civilized.”

    From Death Wish. The first episode.

  19. While it’s imperfect, it’s the best South Carolina is going to get. SC will never have open carry as long as Larry Martin keeps getting elected. While he’s passing himself off as republican, the fact is he’s a democrat in republican clothing.

    • The irony is that Pickens County is a bright red corner of an otherwise red state. There was something more to this that we don’t know. No doubt we’ll find out soon. Meanwhile, things are moving in the right direction — in South Carolina and the rest of the country. Granted, not fast enough, but moving nonetheless.

  20. To paraphrase, “A fool and his rights are soon parted”. Especially if left to useless power-hungry politicians to decide who is and who is not “eligible” to enjoy liberty. When we have reached that latter state, the only recourse, it seems to me, is what the barons did at Runnymede in 2015… on 15 June… But, we can expect a whole lot more tyrannical resistance than that puissant king could muster. And we must be prepared, as the patriots who went to Bunkerville, NV… If the despots won’t stand down, then they can expect the same treatment Baltimore is receiving, and we can but hope it does to their personal homes what that has done to innocent black and white business owners…

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