A state House panel advanced a proposal Wednesday that would allow concealed weapons holders from all other states to also carry in South Carolina.
South Carolina currently recognizes concealed weapons permits (CWP) from 23 other states that have similar requirements to get a permit. However, it does not recognize other states that either do not require a background check or the same amount of training to carry. Two exceptions are Georgia and North Carolina, whose residents were exempted from those requirements last year.
The House Constitutional Law subcommittee voted 3-2 along party lines for legislation that would recognize those 26 other states, as well. Both of the committee’s Democratic members voted against the bill, while its three Republicans supported. The measure will be taken up in the full House Judiciary Committee next week.
“Over half of the states now afford the opportunity for those that have concealed weapons permits issued by other states to get full faith and credit to those permits in their states,” State Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, said during the meeting.
But Democrats on the panel opposed the change, concerned about CWP holders from other states that do not have the training requirement or grant permits to those between the ages of 18 and 21 years old (South Carolina does not offer permits to those under 21).
Some law enforcement agencies oppose the change for similar reasons. SC Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Jarrod Bruder believes applicants should have to take a basic gun safety course first. “You certainly have a right to bear arms, but knowledge does not always come with that right,” he told the panel. “We’ve seen people show up at some of these CWP classes and ask where to put the bullets.”
South Carolina is a “conditional reciprocity” state for CWPs. That means it recognizes permits from any state that also allows South Carolina permit holders to carry there, so long as that state’s requirements are at the same level. Of the 26 states that South Carolina does not recognize, 10 allow SC holders to carry anyway, 10 do not recognize any out-of-state permits, and 6 could recognize SC permits provided the Palmetto State return the favor.
In other words, South Carolina holders could be able to carry in six new states if the bill becomes law: Colorado, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington.
National Rifle Association representative Anthony Roulette said out-of-state permits have not caused “widespread problems” in those states which offer “true recognition,” even residents those from states with looser training requirements.
“The vast majority of carry permit holders are responsible, law-abiding citizens,” he said. “They can be trusted to carry in South Carolina.”
The State Law Enforcement Division said it does not track out-of-state CWP holders. The agency did revoke more than 500 South Carolina permits last year, but SLED general counsel Adam Whitsett said the majority of those were because the permit holder either moved or was arrested for a non-gun-related crime.
State Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, said he has constitutional concerns if the law would recognize more rights for those who are not from South Carolina to carry than those who live here. “We would be treating two different groups of 18-year-olds differently,” he said. “If you’re a South Carolina 18-year-old… you can not have a South Carolina permit. But if you are 18 and (visiting from) Alabama and don’t have any training, you have more rights than our citizens do.”
Even supporters of the bill, like State Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, expressed similar concerns and talked of a potential amendment that would not recognize out-of-state permits for those under 21. However, the panel did not add any new language Wednesday.