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

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

Gun rights advocates have been pushing for the law for nearly a decade, which would first allow open carry to people who have completed the training to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Encouraging that kind of training was one of the biggest obstacles to 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 paved the way.

The law also provides harsher penalties for people who repeatedly carry weapons in places where they would still be prohibited, such as schools or courthouses, or commit crimes while armed, whether they use the weapon or not. Penalties may be increased if the offender does not have a concealed weapons permit.

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

For Governor Henry McMaster, tougher penalties for criminals who own guns when they shouldn’t, and for people who use guns illegally, were the most important part of the new law.

“Now law enforcement, prosecutors and judges can keep 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 on Wednesday. The House of Representatives adopted it on Tuesday.

Gun rights advocates are putting heavy pressure on senators to get rid of additional penalties for people without concealed weapons permits. They say there should be open carry without any incentive to get a permit, and suggest people legally carrying weapons could be harassed.

But Sen. Rex Rice said the bill is about the best gun law the state can get.

“It gives law-abiding citizens the right to carry a gun, with or without a permit. And it also puts the bad guys in jail when they’re carrying guns and they shouldn’t be,” the Easley Republican said.

Some law enforcement leaders were lukewarm or opposed to the bill, saying they were concerned about their officers encountering armed people at shooting scenes, having to make split-second judgments about who was a threat and who was trying to help, and that there was a lack of required training for people. to carry weapons in public.

Other opponents said openly allowing people over 18 to have guns could lead to high school students carrying guns in their cars just off campus and turning arguments into shootings, or a driver cutting off another end in a gunfight along the side of the road.

Senator Josh Kimbrell said these are all crimes and will continue to be crimes, and that responsible gun owners should not be punished for exercising their Second Amendment rights.

“If you pull out a gun in public and point it at someone because you’re angry that they took your parking spot. We will not allow that,” the Spartanburg Republican said.