Law-abiding adults can now carry guns openly in South Carolina after governor approves new law

South Carolina joined 28 other states that allow open carry of guns without a permit, including nearly every state in the Deep South

South Carolina House members
South Carolina House members watch the voting board as the House approved on a 86-33 vote a bill that would allow open carry of guns on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Columbia, S.C.Jeffrey Collins (AP)

Any adult who can legally own a gun can now carry one openly in South Carolina after Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill into law Thursday, just a day after it received final legislative approval.

Gun rights supporters have pushed for the law for nearly a decade, first allowing open carry for people who took the training to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Encouraging that kind of training was one of the biggest roadblocks for the new law. A Senate proposal to provide millions of dollars for free gun training across the state needed to get a concealed weapons permit was part of what cleared the way.

The law also provides stiffer penalties for people who repeatedly carry guns in places where they would still be banned, like schools or courthouses, or commit crimes while armed, whether they use the weapon or not. The penalties can be enhanced if the offender doesn’t have a concealed weapons permit.

With the governor’s signature in a private ceremony in his office with at least a dozen lawmakers, South Carolina joined 28 other states that allow open carry of guns without a permit, including nearly every state in the Deep South.

For Gov. Henry McMaster, the stiffer penalties for criminals possessing guns when they shouldn’t and people who illegally use weapons was the most important part of the new law.

“Now law enforcement, prosecutors and judges can keep career violent criminals behind bars where they belong where they can no longer hurt innocent South Carolinians,” McMaster said in a statement after the Senate approved the compromise Wednesday. The House passed it on Tuesday.

Gun rights advocates put heavy pressure on senators to get rid of extra penalties for people without concealed weapons permits, saying there should be true open carry with no incentive to get a permit and suggesting people legally carrying guns could be harassed.

But Sen. Rex Rice said the bill is about the best gun rights law the state can get. “It gives law-abiding citizens the right to carry a gun with or without permit. And it also puts the bad guys in jail if they are carrying guns and shouldn’t,” the Republican from Easley said.

Some law enforcement leaders were lukewarm or against the bill, saying they worried about their officers encountering armed people at shooting scenes having to make a split-second assessment about who is a threat and who is trying to help and a lack of required training for people to carry guns in public.

Other opponents said letting people as young as 18 openly carry guns could lead to high school seniors carrying guns in their cars just off campus and turning arguments into shootings or a driver cutting off another ending in a side-of-the-road shootout.

Sen. Josh Kimbrell said those are all crimes and will remain crimes, and responsible gun owners shouldn’t be penalized from exercising their 2nd Amendment rights.

“If you’re going to pull out a pistol in public and point it at someone because you are pissed off that they took your parking space, we’re not allowing that,” the Republican from Spartanburg said.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS