On February 8, 2017, Representative Jonathan Hill introduced a “Constitutional Carry” bill in the SC House. “Constitutional Carry” though is a loosely defined term that even the most knowledgeable gun rights advocates cannot agree upon. Thus it is not enough to state the intent of the bill; the real question is : What will it do?
H. 3700, as introduced, will allow permit-less carry by introducing an “exception that swallows the rule” of SC Code Ann. 16-23-20. Subsection (A)(17) specifically exempts from the prohibition on carrying a handgun “a person who is not prohibited from possessing firearms under state law.” This new exception would effectively limit the prohibition in 16-23-20 to only those persons, such as felons, who cannot legally possess firearms under SC law.
In excepting all lawful firearm owners from the prohibition in 16-23-20, the bill will remove restrictions on carrying a handgun openly. While the law will not specifically state that a handgun can be carried openly, there will be no prohibition on doing so. Under the traditions of the English Common Law, that which is not prohibited is allowed. Thus open carry will become available to the people of SC.
To further clarify the intent of the bill, the definition of “concealable weapon” is altered by removing language requiring a firearm carried pursuant to a CWP to be concealed.
Aligning CWP Exceptions
There are currently many exceptions in the law for CWP holders. These include the ability to carry a firearm into places that serve alcohol or onto a school campus if certain protocols are followed. H. 3700 will open these exceptions to all South Carolinians as long as they continue to follow these protocols. This is a continuation of permit-less carry, and is a characteristic of the bill that leads to lengthy language.
Concealed Weapons Permits
The law WILL NOT remove CWPs. SC will still have and issue CWPs, and we will continue to honor CWPs from other states. However, a CWP will no longer be necessary to carry a firearm. And if you have a CWP, you will not have to have it on you to carry a firearm. BUT, it will still be good practice to carry a CWP with you whenever you are carrying a firearm.
By eliminating the requirement for a CWP, H. 3700 will automatically create reciprocity. Clearer still, the bill explicitly states that permits issued by another state must be honored by South Carolina. Thus H. 3700 would eliminate the need for an additional National Reciprocity bill in South Carolina.
H. 3700 does not affect a property owners ability to exclude someone who is carrying a firearm. Private property owners will still be the masters of their domain, and H. 3700 makes clear that this applies not only to persons with a CWP, but also to those who will carry legally without a CWP.
H. 3700 is a concisely drafted bill that will remove the requirement for a permit to carry a firearm. Exceptions for permit holders will be extended to all law abiding citizens. And our CWP system and reciprocity will be retained and improved. Further, all persons will be able to carry openly.
While the bill is a long ways from eliminating all restrictions on the carrying of firearms, it is a step in the right direction without giving up firearm liberties.