This month, a new law allowing permitted handgun owners to openly carry in public will begin in South Carolina.
State legislators voted this year to change the law to allow South Carolinians with concealed weapons permits to carry firearms openly. The move was considered a big win for Second Amendment advocates, but was opposed by some of the most well-known names in law enforcement. It came as Republicans bolstered their control of the General Assembly after the November 2020 election.
Gov. Henry McMaster will hold a ceremonial bill signing in Greenville Friday.
Here’s what gun owners need to know before the new law starts:
When do changes take effect?
Though the bill became law in mid-May, South Carolinians won’t be able to open carry until Sunday, Aug. 15.
Senators added the delay into the bill to give law enforcement time to educate the police and the public on the legislation.
Will anyone be able to open carry?
Only people who have successfully applied for a concealed weapons permit will be able to openly carry their handguns. People who already have their permits are not required to reapply.
Some lawmakers pushed to eliminate the permit requirement all together, but their proposals were soundly shot down.
Will I need any additional training to open carry?
Anyone who applies for a concealed weapons permit on or after Aug. 15 will need to provide the State Law Enforcement Division with “proof of training.” That will consist of an “original document or certified copy” given to an applicant showing they have completed a basic or advanced handgun education course offered by law enforcement or a nationally recognized organization that promotes gun safety.
That training must have been completed within the last three years.
The course also must include information on statutory and case law in South Carolina relating to handguns and use of deadly force, information on handgun use and safety, information on proper storage practices, the actual firing of at least 25 rounds with an instructor, properly securing a firearm in a holster, “cocked and locked” carrying, how to respond to a person who tries to take your firearm from you and de-escalation techniques and strategies.
However, applicants looking for a concealed weapons permit but their application is postmarked before Aug. 15 will not need to provide proof of training. Existing permit holders also are not required to get additional training.
How will the permit process change?
With a proof of training requirement, the new law waives all application fees for those seeking a new concealed weapons permit or renewing an existing one. Any money orders attached to applications will be returned.
However, if an application is postmarked before Aug. 15, state law enforcement officials will still require and accept fee payment. Those fees are set by law and SLED cannot waive them, the agency said in a statement earlier this month.
Will there be any places that I can’t open carry?
Guns still will not be permitted in gun-free zones, such as schools and on the State House grounds. Businesses also will be allowed to post signs prohibiting either concealed or open carry of firearms.
The law also gives cities and counties the ability to temporarily restrict open carrying during permitted events. That could include public protests, rallies, parades, festivals, fairs and other organized events. Signs must be posted around said events.
Gun owners will be allowed to open carry inside churches, even if the churches meet on school grounds. But, in that case, open carry will only be allowed during a church service or official church activity when students are not present.