South Carolina Becomes 29th State to Pass Permitless Carry

by Tommy Grant

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South Carolina has officially joined the ranks of states championing Second Amendment rights by allowing permitless carry of handguns. Governor Henry McMaster’s signature has marked a significant advancement in gun rights, making South Carolina the 29th state in the nation to adopt this policy. This move has sparked a mix of reactions, with supporters celebrating the enhancement of personal freedoms and detractors voicing concerns over public safety. Here’s a deeper look into the implications and expectations surrounding this landmark legislation.

A Milestone for Gun Rights

On March 7, Governor Henry McMaster signed into law a bill that has been the subject of extensive debate within the Statehouse. This legislation, representing the most considerable expansion of gun rights since the state permitted open carry for licensed gun owners three years prior, now allows South Carolina residents to carry handguns in most public places without a permit. Advocates of the bill hail this as a triumph for “constitutional carry,” celebrating the increased ability for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves.

Immediate Implementation

The new law took effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, removing the previous requirements for South Carolinians to undergo eight hours of training and pass a background check to carry concealed handguns. This significant change simplifies the process for residents to exercise their right to carry, though it specifically applies to handguns, with long guns having been permitted for open carry without a permit for years.

Restrictions and Clarifications

Despite the broad allowances, the legislation outlines specific locations where carrying handguns remains prohibited, such as police stations, courthouses, schools, hospitals, and federal facilities. Additionally, the law addresses carrying in private businesses and residences, granting owners the discretion to permit or prohibit guns on their premises. It also specifies conditions under which firearms can be carried in vehicles and the consequences of violations, aiming to balance the newfound freedoms with measures to ensure public safety.

Public Safety and Crime Reduction

Critics of the permitless carry law, including local Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D–Charleston), who said South Carolina has “paved the way for all 5 million citizens in South Carolina to the gates of hell,” have expressed concerns about potential rises in crime and mass shootings. However, empirical evidence from states with similar laws suggests otherwise. Studies, including a notable one from Ohio, have demonstrated that permitless carry can lead to decreased gun crime, challenging the narrative that such laws endanger communities. According to the Center for Justice Research, the introduction of constitutional carry in Ohio was followed by a reduction in gun-related crimes in six of its eight largest cities.

The Debate on Training and Penalties

The law also supports the value of formal training for gun owners and the role of penalties in enforcing responsible carry. While the elimination of the permit requirement removes mandatory training, the state will offer free gun training to people still looking to secure a firearms permit, which under the current law, does provide gun owners with extra legal benefits and recognizes the importance of responsible gun ownership. Furthermore, the law introduces stiffer penalties for those carrying guns unlawfully or committing crimes while armed, particularly for repeat offenders, underscoring a commitment to penalizing criminal use of firearms rather than responsible personal carry.

 

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