Openly carrying a firearm will be legal in South Carolina starting Aug. 15, and the State Law Enforcement Division is trying to make sure gun owners and law enforcement officers understand this upcoming change.
Gov. Henry McMaster signed the Open Carry with Training Act into law on May 17, which goes into effect Aug. 15 after a 90-day implementation period. Carrying a weapon will still require a concealed weapon permit, and valid CWP holders cannot openly carry a firearm until Aug. 15.
The new law doesn’t change who can carry a firearm, or where they can carry one. Property owners can still post signs barring the carrying of a concealable weapon by CWP holders, as can public offices. Governments can temporarily restrict the carrying of firearms at organized public gatherings as well while post signs to inform attendees of the restriction.
People can read the text of the act online at bit.ly/3j31OqG.
The act removes the $50 fees associated with applying for or renewing a CWP, as well as the $5 replacement fee, making a permit free for anyone. It requires applicants to provide proof of training — a document or copy supplied by an applicant showing they completed a basic or advanced handgun education course within three years before filing the application.
According to the SLED, these training courses must include four new topics added by the act: Properly securing a firearm in a holster, “cocked and locked” carrying, how to respond if someone tries to take a firearm from your holster and de-escalation techniques. The updated training requirement only applies to new applicants, not people seeking CPW renewal or replacement.
“Anything as far as protecting our Second Amendment rights, I’m all for any time it comes up,” said state Rep. Cal Forrest, R-Saluda, one of the bill’s early sponsors. “I think what is lost on most people is that it makes South Carolina a Second Amendment sanctuary state.”
A section of the law requires the state Attorney General to review any federal regulation related to the concealed carry of weapons. If the state Attorney General decides the federal action seeks to limit the carrying of weapons, the law says no state funds or employees will be used to enforce it.
Forrest said he’s heard from people in favor of a broader argument for a constitutional right to carry firearms, but said the Open Carry with Training Act is a more palatable option for most people. He doesn’t expect many people will be openly carrying firearms come Aug. 15, and said while he’s a licensed firearms dealer, he doesn’t intend to open carry.
“Nowhere near all the people with CWP’s are proactively carrying guns,” he said. “I can’t see myself going to a store or anywhere throughout the county openly carrying a firearm.”
In preparation for the act going into effect, SLED worked alongside the state Criminal Justice Academy to develop a training video for law enforcement officers. The video, available through the academy’s online training portal, is required viewing for any law enforcers by Aug. 13.
Greenwood Police Chief T.J. Chaudoin said he’s viewed the video, which goes over the details of the new law. It presents scenarios where officers encounter people openly carrying a firearm, and emphasizes what people’s rights are under the new law. It also went over de-escalation techniques when encountering someone openly carrying a gun.
Each scenario police encounter is different, with so many variables to consider, so Chaudoin said the video mostly served to teach the finer points of the law and what people’s rights are. He said anyone stopped by a law enforcement officer who is carrying a firearm should inform the officer they are a CWP holder and disclose that they have a gun.
“Now that it is law, we’re going to support and uphold that law,” he said.