Handgun Laws in South Carolina – What You Need to Know

As criminal defense attorneys in Mt Pleasant and Charleston, SC, we know handgun laws in South Carolina can be confusing. Violations of gun laws, even innocent ones, can lead to jail time, fines, and the loss of the weapon. Because these laws vary from state to state, when you travel between states, it is hard to know what is legal.

In this article, we examine the handgun laws in South Carolina and issues such as where you can carry a concealed weapon, possessing a weapon at your business, transporting a weapon, selling a gun, finding a gun, and much more. We have updated this article to be accurate regarding the major law change in South Carolina, the South Carolina Constitutional Carry/Second Amendment Preservation Act. For information on South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground Laws, please click here to read our in-depth article.

Under the Handgun Laws in South Carolina, Do I Need a Permit to Own a Gun?

The answer is no; no permit is required to own any handgun, rifle, or shotgun in South Carolina..

Is South Carolina an “Open Carry” State?

Yes. Since 2021, it has been legal to openly carry a handgun in South Carolina if you had a concealed weapons permit (CWP). As of March 7, 2024, it is now legal to openly carry or concealed carry a firearm with a length of “less than twelve inches” in South Carolina, regardless of whether you hold a valid CWP. However, there are still restrictions on where you may carry and whether you may carry at all, as described below.

Do I Still Need a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the CWP is now mostly meaningless. According to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the changes under the current handgun laws in South Carolina mean:

  • There are no restrictions of guns inside vehicles. Guns can be stored anywhere inside the vehicle openly or concealed.
  • Possession of a firearm alone is NOT a reason to stop an individual. To make a stop, there must be reasonable and articulable suspicion a crime has occurred. Law enforcement officers cannot conduct a stop solely because a firearm is visible.
  • A CWP holder or a person carrying a firearm without a permit pursuant to this law DOES NOT have a duty to notify a law enforcement officer that they are carrying a firearm.
  • Insofar as there is no longer a CWP requirement, a CWP holder is not required to carry his/her CWP or disclose his/her status as a CWP holder to a law enforcement officer.

However, you may still need a CWP for reciprocity when you are traveling through other states, so you may want to keep renewing it if interstate travel with your firearm is important to you. Also, having a CWP makes purchasing a firearm from a dealer easier.

Where Can’t You Openly Carry a Gun in South Carolina?

Under our handgun laws in South Carolina, you may not carry a handgun, whether concealed or not, in the following places:

  • Restaurants that serve alcohol for on-premises consumption UNLESS you don’t consume any alcohol.
  • Police stations, Sheriff’s departments, or other law enforcement facilities.
  • Jails or detention centers.
  • Courthouses/courtrooms.
  • Polling places on election days.
  • Offices or meeting places of governmental entities such as counties, cities, and school districts.
  • School or college athletic events not related to firearms.
  • Church officials who hold a CWP may carry a handgun openly or concealed on school grounds when the property is leased by the church and only during services or other official church activities. In limited instances, this may also apply to a school attached to church grounds.
  • Daycares or preschools.
  • Places where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law.
  • Churches or religious sanctuaries unless permission is given by the head of the facility.
  • Hospitals, medical clinics, doctor’s offices, or other places where medical services are rendered unless permission is given by the head of the facility.
  • Businesses or other establishments that post “No Concealed Weapons Allowed” signs or that otherwise express that they do not want concealed weapons on their premises.
  • Homes, apartments, or other dwellings unless you have the express permission of the person living at the residence.
  • If you bring a gun to a school or college of any kind, don’t carry the gun on you. It must be in a closed glove compartment, closed console, closed trunk, or in a closed container secured by an integral fastener and transported in the luggage compartment of the vehicle.

Can I Carry My Handgun in My Car in South Carolina?

Yes. Under our handgun laws in South Carolina, you can store or carry a handgun anywhere in your car, whether occupied or unoccupied. This is a very big change from the pre-2024 law change which limited where you could store the gun in your car, even if you held a CWP.

Who Can’t Own a Gun in South Carolina?

Under the handgun laws in South Carolina, the following persons can’t own a gun:

  • Persons convicted of a felony, a violent crime, a crime of criminal domestic violence, or a misdemeanor that carried more than 2 years in jail. However, if you have the charges pardoned, you will get your gun rights back. Please read more on the pardon process here.
  • Persons under a domestic order of protection (a/k/a restraining order in family court) may not possess a firearm or ammunition at any time. If your domestic order of protection has expired, you might be able to get your gun rights back.
  • Persons who are drug addicts or users, illegal aliens, an alien under a non-immigrant visa, a dishonorably discharged veteran, or a fugitive from justice, then you may not possess a firearm or ammunition at any time.
  • Persons who aren’t a felon but are awaiting trial on felony charges may not receive a firearm.
  • Persons who are on probation or parole.
  • Persons who have been declared mentally incompetent by a court of law.
  • Persons who have been ordered by a court to surrender their firearms.

Can I Keep a Handgun at my Business in South Carolina?

Under the handgun laws in South Carolina, if you are a business owner or the person in control of a business, you may carry a handgun at your business. If you are an employee, you may do so if you have the permission of the owner.

How Do I Keep Concealed Weapons Out of My Business?

Under the handgun laws in South Carolina, you must post a sign that is clearly visible from the outside of the building. It must be at least 8 inches wide and at least 12 inches tall. It must state “NO CONCEALABLE WEAPONS ALLOWED” in black one-inch tall uppercase letters at the bottom of the sign and centered between the lateral edges of the sign. It must show a black silhouette of a handgun inside a circle seven inches in diameter with a diagonal line that runs from the lower left to the upper right at a forty-five-degree angle (think Ghostbusters). It must be placed between 40 and 60 inches from the bottom of the building’s entrance door. If the place does not have doors, then check with a lawyer to make sure the size and other requirements are met.

A person who brings a concealable weapon onto the premises or workplace that properly posts a “NO CONCEALABLE WEAPONS ALLOWED” sign may be charged with a misdemeanor that carries up to two (2) years in jail.

Can I Bring a Handgun into a Friend’s House in South Carolina?

You may carry a handgun in your home or another person’s home ONLY IF you have the permission of the owner or the person in legal possession of the property.

Can I Sell My Handgun in South Carolina?

Under the handgun laws in South Carolina, You may not sell, offer to sell, deliver, lease, rent, barter, exchange, or transport for sale into this State any handgun to people convicted of violent crimes, fugitives from justice, habitual drunkards, drug addicts, or people who have been adjudicated incompetent, a person who is a member of a subversive organization, people under the age of eighteen (with certain exceptions including members of the Armed Forces or R.O.T.C.), people who by order of a circuit judge or county court judge has been adjudged unfit to carry or possess a firearm, and illegal aliens. Likewise, it is illegal for the above-described people to carry or possess a handgun.

Finally, if the original serial number has been removed or obliterated, you cannot buy, sell, own, or carry the handgun, and you should probably contact a criminal lawyer to decide how to dispose of it.

If you are the seller of a handgun, it is recommended that you retain a lawyer to draft a Bill of Sale so that the transfer is documented. This way, if the gun is later used in a crime, you can show that the gun legally left your possession and went to someone else.

What Should I Do if I Find a Handgun in South Carolina?

Call the police and turn it over to them. They will then try to determine whether the gun is stolen or if it was used in the commission of a crime, and they may be able to locate the rightful owner. They are required to publish the existence of the gun in the newspaper. If the gun is cleared and the owner does not turn up, then you may be able to keep the gun after 90 days go by if you pay the advertising costs, such as the cost of running the ad in the newspaper.

What Are Some Other Weapons Offenses in South Carolina?

There are many weapons laws in South Carolina, and if you have any specific questions, you should consult with an attorney. However, some offenses are more commonly seen than others.

You can’t own or handle an automatic weapon, sawed-off rifle, or sawed-off shotgun. You can’t bring to a school any weapon, which includes a knife with over a 2-inch blade, a blackjack, a metal pipe or pole, firearms, or any other type of weapon, device, or object which may be used to inflict bodily injury or death. The exception is that a concealed weapons permit holder may carry the weapon inside an attended or locked motor vehicle and is secured in a closed glove compartment, closed console, closed trunk, or in a closed container secured by an integral fastener and transported in the luggage compartment of the vehicle.

Also, this is hopefully obvious, but you can’t point a firearm at another person. You can’t discharge a firearm at or into a building or any structure that can be occupied by people. You can’t discharge a weapon at a car, boat, or aircraft.

City and county ordinances may regulate the careless or negligent discharge or brandishing (displaying) of firearms. Check your local laws before handling or discharging firearms.

Download Our Free Book on Gun Laws in South Carolina

Numerous citizens own guns and use them for self-defense, target shooting, hunting, and other lawful purposes. If you’re a gun owner or thinking about purchasing a gun, you should familiarize yourself with the laws on guns so that you don’t get caught accidentally violating a law. Concealed weapons permit classes provide good education on both gun laws and gun safety, so consider taking one.

Stephan Futeral’s and Thomas Nelson’s Book, “Gun Laws in South Carolina – Piecing It All Together,” is available for FREE on the iTunes® Bookstore or as a PDF. Based on over 30 years of their combined experience, Stephan and Thomas wrote this book in easy-to-understand terms to explain the laws and your rights in South Carolina when you own, carry, or use a firearm. If you own a weapon such as a handgun or if you have a Concealed Weapons Permit, then this book is a MUST READ.

Handgun Laws in South Carolina

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