South Carolina House passes permitless carry measure

The South Carolina House this week approved a bill to reform handgun carry laws in the state. (Photo: Rep. Mike Pitts)

The South Carolina House this week approved a bill to reform handgun carry laws in the state. (Photo: Rep. Mike Pitts)

House lawmakers on Thursday forwarded a bill to the Senate that would allow for the lawful carry of handguns in the Palmetto State without a license.

South Carolina is one of just five states that ban open carry and requires a permit for concealed carry, both of which would be a thing of the past under HB 3930 which was approved 64-46 by the House on Wednesday and sent to the Senate the day after.

“Pleased to announce that Constitutional Carry has passed the SC House,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Greenwood, noted on social media. “Now it is on to the Senate.”

The bill would remove the requirement to obtain a concealed weapon permit to carry a handgun in the state. It would also retain the current permitting system for those who want to take advantage of reciprocity agreements with other states.

Currently, permits are issued by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, who had 308,406 active permits in circulation as of the end of last year. The permits cost $50, which is waived for retired law enforcement and some veterans and are valid for five years.

Previous efforts in 2015 and 2012, which concentrated on permitless concealed carry alone, failed to become law.

The legislation this week was the subject of fierce opposition in the House, with some lawmakers citing that it posed potential unanticipated consequences that could amp up interactions with police.

“If I’m an African-American male on the Battery in downtown Charleston and I’m open-carrying at 1 or 2 in the morning, which I’ll legally be able to do, is my very being, the very breath in my body going to give law enforcement probable cause to stop me?” said Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, as reported by the Charleston Post and Courier.

While supported by gun rights groups, the measure drew the ire of gun control advocates who feel allowing people to carry a handgun without a permit or training is a risk to the public.

“Passing legislation that would drastically lower the bar for who can carry a handgun in public in South Carolina defies common sense,” said Jackie Shelley with the South Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action. “South Carolinians deserve laws that work in favor of our safety and not those that abandon critically important safety standards. We hope that the Senate stands on the side of public safety and common sense and rejects this legislation.”

The measure is currently residing in the Senate but has not been referred. The chamber has had a Republican majority since 2001.