Gun Laws In South Carolina

Gun laws in South Carolina can be confusing.  I get frequent questions from friends and family about them so I’m going to explain them as best as I can in this blog.  Violations of gun laws, even innocent ones, can bring hefty fines, confiscation of the gun, jail time and a blemish on you record.  Because each state has different gun laws, when you travel between states, it is hard to know what is legal and what is not.  It should be noted that no other states recognize the South Carolina Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) so when traveling to other states you need to be aware of the local rules.  The purpose of this post is to assist South Carolina Residents or people who are passing through our beautiful state in better understanding the laws so that they don’t fall on the wrong side of the law unintentionally.  Ignorance is not a defense!  It should be noted that there are many exceptions for law enforcement officers, constables, gun dealers, off duty and reserve police officers and various others.


Who Is Prohibited From Possesing A Firearm In South Carolina?

  • People who felons, a violent crime, criminal domestic violence, or under a domestic order of protection, also known as a restraining order, by Family Court, are all forbidden from possessing a firearm or ammunition at any time. 
  • Drug addicts or users, illegal aliens, a veteran who has a dishonorable discharge, an alien under a non-immigrant visa, or a fugitive from justice may not possess a firearm or ammunition at any time. 
  • Even if you have not been convicted of a felony but are awaiting trial for felony charges you may not possess a firearm.
  • If you have a domestic order of protection and it expires, you may be able to get your gun rights back.  If you are convicted of criminal domestic violence but it has been expunged, you may be able to get your gun rights back. 

I Don’t Have A CWP, Where Can I Carry My Handgun In My Car?

This is a question that we get asked frequently so I will try to lay out the rules in a clear manner.  You may carry a handgun in your vehicle if it is secured in a closed glove compartment, closed console, closed trunk, or in a closed container secured by an integral fastener and being transported in the luggage compartment of the vehicle.  The exception to this is that you cannot bring the gun to a school or college.

The term internal fastener creates some ambiguity and it is somewhat unclear what the South Carolina legislature meant when they used that term.  To be safe, we suggest that if you are using a container to transport a handgun that it is something lockable with either a snap or latch.  This means a shoebox or a backpack won’t qualify. 

“Luggage compartment” also causes some ambiguity, but the law provides a definition.  It means that the trunk if the car has a trunk.  If the car doesn’t have a trunk, like a station wagon or a sports car with a hatch, it means “the area of the motor vehicle in which the manufacturer designed that luggage be carried or to the area of the motor vehicle in which luggage is customarily carried.”  In a station wagon, van, or SUV the term “luggage compartment” would be the area behind, but not under, the rearmost seat.  In a truck, the luggage compartment would be the area behind the rearmost seat but not under the front seat. 

Motorcycle riders must secure the handgun in a closed saddlebag or another similar closed accessory container. 

Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you allowed to carry the gun under your seat, in your pocket, on the floor, or anywhere not specifically mentioned above. 

I Have a CWP, Where Can I Carry In My Car?

All the above mentioned places in the previous answer as well as “on your person.”  This term is vague.  To be safe, we recommend that that you carry it holstered and concealed on your person.  While we would argue that under the driver’s seat or between the seat and console would suffice if you had a CWP, this falls into a gray area of the law which may be construed by the police as a violation of the law.   

Where Can A Concealed Weapons Holder Walk Around With A Gun In South Carolina?

It is actually easier to explain where the CWP holder cannot carry a handgun in South Carolina.  Everywhere else is okay, as long as it is CONCEALED.  Unlike some states, South Carolina is not an “open carry” state.  The gun must be concealed and the holder must have a CWP.  The CWP holder can carry the gun everywhere except the following places:

  • Police stations, Sheriff’s departments, jails or prisons or other law enforcement facilities.
  • Restaurants that serve alcohol by the glass UNLESS you are not drinking
  • Courthouses and courtrooms
  • Polling places on election days
  • School or college athletic events not related to firearms
  • Offices or meeting places of government entities
  • Daycares and preschools
  • Places where firearms are prohibited by federal laws
  • 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 given permission by the head of the facility
  • Homes, apartments, or other dwellings unless you have the express permission of the person living at the residence
  • Business or other establishments that post “No Concealed Weapons Allowed” signs or that otherwise express that they do not want concealed weapons on their premises 
  • If you do bring a gun to a school or a college of any kind, don’t carry the gun on you.  It must be in the 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
  • Homes, apartments, or other dwellings unless you have the express permission of the person living at the residence
  • Any person may carry a concealed weapon from their automobile to a hotel room that he has rented

What about my business?

If you are a business owner or the person who is in control of the business, you may carry a handgun at your business.  If you are an employee, you may ONLY do so if you have a concealed weapons permit AND you have permission of the owner. 

How to keep concealed weapons out of my business?

To keep out concealed weapons you must post a sign that is clearly visible from the outside of the building.  It must be at least eight inches wide and at least twelve inches tall.  It must state “NO CONCEALED WEAPONS ALLOWED” in black, one-inch tall all capital letters at the bottom of the sign and centered between the lateral edges of the sign.  It also must have 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.  It must be placed between forty and sixty inches from the bottom of the building’s entrance door.  If the place does not have the doors, then check with a lawyer to make sure the size and other requirements are met. 

Hunting in South Carolina

Hunters and fisherman who are hunting or fishing or going to or from their places of hunting or fishing, while in a vehicle or on foot, are allowed to carry a handgun. 

Selling a handgun in South Carolina

You cannot sell, offer to sell, deliver, lease, barter, rent, 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 have been adjudicated unfit to possess or carry a firearm by order of a circuit judge or county court judge, and illegal aliens.  It is also illegal for those mentioned above to carry or possess a hand gun. 

Finally, if the serial number has been removed or obliterated, you can’t buy, sell, own, or carry the handgun, and you should probably contact an attorney to decide on how to dispose of it. 

If you are selling a handgun, it is recommended to hire an attorney to draft a bill of sale so that the transfer is documented.  This protects you as the seller if the gun is used in a crime down the road.  This allows you to show that the gun legally left your possession and went to someone else. 

Other Weapon Crimes in South Carolina   

There are numerous weapons laws in South Carolina, and if you have any specific questions, you should always consult with an attorney.  Some of the more common offenses dealing with weapons are: You can’t own or possess an automatic weapon, sawed off shot gun, short barreled rifle with out a Class III weapons permit from the ATF.  You can’t bring to school any weapons which include knives with more than a two inch blade, a black jack, 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 weapons inside an attended or locked 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, you cannot point a firearm at another person, fire into a building or any structure that could be occupied by people, or at a car, boat, or aircraft. 

Do Other States Recognize South Carolina CWP’s and Vice Versa?

Reciprocity means there is an agreement between states to recognize each other’s laws.  South Carolina has reciprocity with certain states regarding concealed weapons permits.  This means that if you hold a CWP in South Carolina, various other states will recognize it, but you still must comply with the state’s laws while you are in that state.  The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has a list of states that have reciprocity with South Carolina.  The states include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho (Enhanced only), Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

General Thoughts On Handgun Laws in South Carolina

Many South Carolinians own guns and use them for recreation, hunting, self defense and many other fun and lawful purposes.  If you are a gun owner or you are thinking about buying your first gun, you should familiarize yourself with the laws in South Carolina so that you don’t get caught unknowingly violation a law.  Concealed weapons permit classes required to obtain a CWP in South Carolina give a brief overview of the laws in our state and we encourage everybody to take the class and obtain his CWP.  Practice common sense when dealing with any firearms and as always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact Thrower & Schwartz. 

This article is written as a brief overview of gun laws in South Carolina.  It doesn’t address every law nor does it address any specific legal situation or crime.  If you have specific questions regarding guns, carrying a gun, CWP, selling a gun or you have been charged with a gun crime, call the attorneys at Thrower & Schwartz to discuss your rights and options.