On February 1st, South Carolinians who value personal liberty and the right to self-defense were pleased to see House Bill 3594 passed the State Senate. As it stands now, the permitless carry bill would restore gun rights in the Palmetto State. The bill still must pass the House of Representatives and receive Governor Henry McMaster's signature before becoming state law. The bill's passage in the Senate marks a big step forward, because it was in the Senate where the bill faced much opposition.
What's in South Carolina House Bill 3594?
Removes the Permit Requirement:
The South Carolina bill is like laws in other states insofar as it allows a person to carry a handgun concealed without first getting a state-issued permit. For those living in South Carolina who still want to get a concealed carry permit—and there are some legitimate reasons someone may want to—the bill leaves the state's current permitting program intact.
Someone may still want a concealed carry permit for reciprocity when traveling to other states that require it. Another compelling reason to get a permit is that the Gun-Free School Zone Act provides a carve out for those with state issued carry permits. Laws vary from state-to-state, but many lift specific restrictions for those carrying with a permit, compared to those carrying without one.
Lowers the Age:
HB3594 would also lower the age for an individual who wants a permit from 21 to 18 years old. I always found it strange that a 17-year-old could sign up for the military—or drafted in times past—and fight in a war, but when they come home, they cannot carry a gun for protection. Equally disturbing is the thought of a married 18-year-old couple who couldn't carry a firearm to protect their family.
Enhanced Penalties for Gun Crimes:
It is strange that this would even be necessary to point out, but the overwhelming majority of people who carry a firearm are law-abiding and have no intent of using the firearm except as a last resort to protect life. Yet unconstitutional gun laws punish these people, while the criminals ignore and repeatedly break the laws pertaining to using firearms illegally.
What HB3594 would do is increase the penalty for prohibited persons caught carrying a firearm or committing a crime while carrying a firearm. While this may not be a deterrent, it provides prosecutors and judges the ability to punish criminals more harshly when they use firearms, which may keep them behind bars longer.
Free Firearm Training:
The bill would require the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to provide free, and voluntary, firearms safety training twice a month.
The free training sounds like a good thing, but I have some reservations about how it would play out practically. First, there is no such thing as “free training”. While individual government officials certainly seem to make lots of money, the government apparatus doesn't make money, it uses taxpayer money. Representative Massey estimates the training program would cost the state $5 million annually. I'm not a bean counter, but that seems like a mighty big sell and commitment, which may be unsustainable. That cost may also pass to gun owners as some sort of punitive tax, driving up gun or ammo sales.
Second, I'm sure there are examples of quality government training that are “free”. But it's possible that the training might be enough to check the “gun safety course” box, but not really what the person needs. Is some training better than no training? It might be, but then again, poor training may give a false sense of accomplishment that keeps the student from pursuing additional training.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying I am against the free training provision. If the bill passes into law with the provision, I hope the free training is beneficial. Just that it is not without potential issues.
Some Things HB3594 Doesn't do.
Whenever a state legislature proposes a constitutional carry bill, the anti-gun media propaganda machine kicks into gear and claims that a bill like this will end civilization as we know it.
As mentioned, the bill doesn't do away with the state's existing permit. It doesn't make it lawful for anyone for any reason to carry a firearm. Prohibited persons still can't possess a firearm, and private businesses may restrict people from carrying a firearm in their business.
Passage of the bill doesn't change the laws that govern when someone may or may not use deadly force and doesn't make law enforcement “less safe”. Law enforcement officers are not concerned with a law-abiding citizen who carries a firearm. The threat is always real, and the officer needs to always approach every contact as though a firearm is present. Because there is always a firearm present, the officer's. And there are quite a few incidents where suspects took an officer's gun and used it against them.
South Carolina Could be the 28th State to Adopt Permitless Carry:
It is surprising for many to find out that some form of permitless carry is the law in 27 states. In fact, since 1793, folks in Vermont have carried a handgun without a permit. The other states are:
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
It's important to remember that not all permitless/constitutional carry laws are the same, so you need to know exactly what your state law says about carrying firearms.
I am a firm believer that it is a responsible thing for a firearm owner to seek training. This becomes even more important if you plan to carry the gun in public for self-defense. That being said, I believe the government overreaches when training is a legal prerequisite for carrying a firearm.
If you plan to carry a firearm without a permit, consider checking out this “Ultimate Guide to Responsible Constitutional Carry“. A lot of thought goes into carrying a firearm for self defense, or at least a lot of thought should go into your decision. If you're new to concealed carry, or been carrying for a while and like podcasts, check out the Concealed Carry Podcast.