COLUMBIA — The S.C. House of Representatives approved legislation that allows adults to legally tote a handgun with no training required while creating a felon-in-possession crime designed to enable officers to charge more people who shouldn’t own a gun.
The bill approved 90-30 on Feb. 22 mostly along party lines would allow anyone 18 and older who can legally buy a gun to carry it around, whether openly or concealed, without needing a permit.
It does not change where guns are banned. Places where they remain illegal for almost everyone include schools, day cares, courtrooms, jails, hospitals, businesses that post “no weapons” signs, and city and county offices.
The bill adds clerks of court and public defenders to the list of exempted people — primarily, judges and prosecutors currently — who can carry where others can’t, but with one caveat. Public defenders still couldn’t take their handgun into a jail or prison.
Amendments approved during the debate encourage gun owners to get training without mandating it, and require them to report a stolen gun to local law enforcement within 30 days without setting a punishment.
Republicans argued the effort is about restoring a “constitutional right” in the Second Amendment that shouldn’t need government permission, while Democrats countered it’s a dangerous bill that will lead to more murders and accidental deaths.
Four Democrats voted for it. No Republican voted against it. One Democrat and two Republicans who were there didn’t vote.
Below is statement from SC Sheriffs’ Association
Statement from President Ravenell on Felons in Possession
February 23, 2023
This week, the South Carolina House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H. 3594, which is commonly referred to as the, “South Carolina Constitutional Carry/Second Amendment Preservation Act of 2023”. The South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association maintains a ‘neutral’ position on the overall legislation, but I want to commend those House Members who stood with law enforcement to ensure convicted felons could not possess firearms.
Historically, South Carolina’s Sheriffs have been amongst the most ardent supporters and defenders of the Second Amendment Rights of law-abiding citizens. We cannot, however, endorse any attempt to place firearms in the hands of convicted felons.
Currently, federal law prohibits anyone who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year from possessing a firearm or ammunition. Some in the House of Representatives wanted to restore firearm rights to convicted felons, which would have violated federal law and placed the public and law enforcement officers directly in harm’s way. Thankfully, this amendment did not pass and felon in possession enhancements remained in the bill.
Some may wonder why the Sheriffs’ Association remained neutral on this bill. Ultimately, the Sheriffs do not see law-abiding citizens possessing firearms as a problem. We do, however, continue to encounter felons in possession of firearms, which is an obvious problem and a direct threat to officer and public safety. Therefore, we urge the General Assembly to enact legislation that will deter this behavior and protect law enforcement officers and the public they serve.
Again, we thank Speaker Smith, Majority Leader Hiott, Judiciary Chairman Newton, and many others for continually supporting law enforcement and law and order in South Carolina.
Sheriff Leroy Ravenell, Orangeburg County
South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association President