As of today it’s legal to openly carry a firearm in South Carolina… as long as you’ve got a license to carry a concealed firearm.
While the new “open carry with training” law isn’t a huge leap forward for the state, both Republicans and Democrats are hyping up the measure, though for very different reasons. Conservatives want to highlight that they did something to improve the state’s gun laws this session (even if the new law doesn’t go nearly as far as the five states adopting Constitutional Carry), while Democrats want to scare the bejeebers out of South Carolinians by claiming the law is going to lead to some Mad Max-ian dystopian future.
On Friday, Gov. Henry McMasters celebrated the new law by holding a ceremonial bill signing at the headquarters of the state’s best known gun manufacturer.
“This is a good day for South Carolina,” said McMaster. “It is a happy day for law-abiding citizens, and I hope that we can continue to be … a great example for the rest of the country.”
The event was held at Palmetto State Armory in Greenville, where McMaster concluded by shooting off several weapons at target practice with Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette and the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Bobby Cox, R-Greenville.
“Owning a firearm is the protected right of every American citizen and today we join 45 other states in expanding our Second Amendment rights by allowing those with concealed weapons permits to openly carry a firearm,” McMaster tweeted Friday.
Florida, California, New York and Illinois are the only states without a similar law.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of states recognize open carry without a license, some law enforcement officials and anti-gun activists are fretting over the potential impact of the rather modest change to state law.
Positive Vibes Ronjanae Smith Inc., a nonprofit created to help end gang violence, posted a sign banning open carry at its center on Reynolds Avenue in North Charleston.
The organization is named for Ronjanae Smith, the 14-year-old girl killed in the crossfire of a gang shooting at an outdoor party during late May.
Ronald Smith, co-founder of the nonprofit and Ronjanae’s father, worried the open-carry law would lead to an increase in gun violence.
“South Carolina should have never passed it, with the murder rates we have, the domestic-violence murder rates,” Smith said. “It’s not fair. We have too much going on.”
Katrina Sinclair, Ronajane’s mother and co-founder of the nonprofit, worried about people who illegally obtained a handgun, or did not have a permit. Sinclair wished lawmakers had addressed that problem before passing this law.
Well, it is a crime to illegally obtain a handgun or to carry one without a license, so I’m not sure what Sinclair was hoping to see from lawmakers. As for the new law leading to an increase in violence, I don’t foresee that happening. The new law doesn’t change who can carry. It simply decriminalizes the open carrying of firearms for those who are licensed to carry one in self-defense. Honestly, the vast majority of gun owners are going to continue to carry concealed, but now they won’t have to worry about a potential criminal charge for accidentally revealing their lawfully carried firearm.
The biggest change that will come from the state’s new law is the fact that the $50 application fee for concealed carry licenses is going away, which in turn should prompt more residents to obtain a carry license. When Indiana recently dropped its application fees for carry licenses, the state police were overwhelmed by the response, with more than 15,000 applications submitted in just the first few days. I don’t know if the demand will be quite as robust in South Carolina, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a surge in applications next week.
The new law is a step in the right direction for South Carolina, but I hope that lawmakers don’t stop here. There was a lot of debate over a pure Constitutional Carry bill this year before legislators decided to scale back their pro-2A push and adopt the open carry with training bill instead, but I know that many gun owners are hoping that in 2022 the Palmetto State will join the nearly two dozen other states around the country that recognize the right of lawful gun owners to carry in self-defense without the need for a government-issued permission slip.