SC gun laws can be complicated.
Maybe you've been arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a handgun in SC. Maybe you are wondering if you can legally own a handgun, or how to get back your right to own a handgun.
With all of the different provisions, definitions, and prohibitions under SC gun laws, where do you begin?
Below, I'll discuss some of the different SC gun laws, federal gun laws, and how you can have your civil rights restored so that you can legally own a handgun, hunting rifle, or concealed weapon permit (CWP) in SC.
If you've been charged with unlawful possession of a handgun in SC or felon in possession of a firearm, call your Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer at Axelrod and Associates as soon as possible to find out what your options are, what your possible defenses may be, and whether there are alternatives to a firearms conviction.
SC Gun Laws
It can be difficult to determine whether you are permitted to possess a handgun or a firearm under SC gun laws if you have a criminal conviction on your record.
Are you prohibited if it is a felony? Can a misdemeanor offense prevent you from owning a firearm? What about a conviction for domestic violence or a restraining order? Does it matter if it is a hunting rifle or if it is a handgun?
Let's look at some of the details of SC gun laws and when a criminal conviction prevents you from owning a firearm in SC.
Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun in SC
SC Code Section 16-23-20 contains SC's law on when you can carry a handgun in SC.
Even if you are not prohibited from possessing a handgun under SC law, you can still be arrested and charged with unlawful carrying of a handgun. It is against the law to carry a handgun in SC, whether it is concealed or not, unless:
- You are a police officer;
- You are a member of the U.S. Armed Forces while on duty;
- You are a member of a gun club going to or from target practice, shows, or exhibits;
- You are hunting or fishing with a valid license;
- You are someone who is in the business of manufacturing, repairing, repossessing, or dealing with firearms and are carrying the handgun in the ordinary course of your business;
- You are a guard working for the federal government who is authorized to carry a handgun;
- You are a member of a military or civil organization in a parade or traveling to or from a meeting place;
- You are in your home or on your property or you have the permission of the property owner to carry a handgun;
- You are a business owner or employee with permission of the business owner and a permit from SLED;
- You are in your vehicle and the gun is in a closed glove compartment, console, trunk, or container in the luggage compartment;
- You are on a motorcycle and the gun is secured in your saddlebags or another closed container;
- You have a concealed weapon permit (CWP) and the gun is concealed on or about your person;
- The gun is still in the box and you are carrying it to your home, business, or you are moving to a new home;
- You are a prison guard on duty; or
- You are transferring the gun from your vehicle to another place where you are legally authorized to carry the gun.
For most people, the bottom line is, unless you have a CWP and if you are not otherwise prohibited from possessing a handgun or firearm (see below), you can carry a handgun at home, on your property, and in your vehicle, if it is secured.
Unlawful Possession of a Handgun in SC
SC gun laws distinguish between handguns and other types of firearms.
SC Code Section 16-23-30 (B) outlines when a person is prohibited from carrying a handgun, including persons who:
- Have a conviction for a crime of violence;
- Are a fugitive from justice;
- Are a habitual drunk or are addicted to drugs; or
- Have been declared mentally incompetent by a court.
Crimes of violence, for purposes of unlawful possession of a handgun in SC, are defined in SC Code Section 16-23-10 (3) as:
- Assault with intent to kill, rape, or rob;
- Assault with a dangerous weapon; or
- Assault with intent to commit any crime that carries a year or more.
If you have a criminal conviction that is not in the list above, you still must look at SC gun laws for felon in possession of a firearm (although all firearms are not handguns, all handguns are firearms) and federal gun laws.
Felon in Possession of a Firearm in SC
SC Code Section 16-23-500 makes it a crime to possess any firearm, including handguns, if you have a conviction for any crime that is:
- A felony; and
- A violent crime as defined by SC Code Section 16-1-60.
Note that "crimes of violence" for purposes of unlawful possession of a handgun is not the same as "violent crimes" for purposes of felon in possession of a firearm...
Section 16-1-60 contains a long list of offenses, some of which are felonies and a few of which are misdemeanors - if your conviction is on the list of "violent crimes" in 16-1-60 and it is a felony offense, you are prohibited from possessing any firearm.
If your conviction is on the list of "crimes of violence" in 16-23-10, you are prohibited from possessing a handgun.
Can I Own a Firearm if I've Been Convicted of Domestic Violence in SC?
SC gun laws also prohibit possession of any firearm when a person has a conviction for:
- Domestic violence first degree;
- Domestic violence second degree - if the court makes findings on the record "that the person caused moderate bodily injury to their own household member;" or
- If there is an order of protection in place and the court finds that the person assaulted or attempted to assault a household member.
The domestic violence prohibitions on gun ownership in SC are lenient - they don't include all domestic violence convictions and, depending on the type of conviction the person has, it may not be a lifetime ban.
But, federal law prohibits any person with any domestic violence conviction from owning a firearm, so, even if you are complying with SC gun laws, you may be violating federal gun laws.
Unlawful Possession of a Weapon in SC
SC Code Section 16-23-460 makes it a crime to carry "a deadly weapon usually used for the infliction of personal injury" if it is concealed.
This law does not apply to "rifles, shotguns, dirks, slingshots, metal knuckles, knives, or razors unless they are used with the intent to commit a crime or in furtherance of a crime."
Federal Firearm Charges
Are you in the clear under SC gun laws? Not so fast...
18 U.S. Code § 922 (g) also contains a long list of persons who are prohibited from possessing any firearm or ammunition under federal law, which includes any person who has a criminal conviction that could have carried a year or more as a potential penalty and any person who has any conviction for domestic violence (including misdemeanor domestic violence third degree in SC and any domestic violence offense that was pled to a "reduced charge" like assault and battery).
How Can I Get My Right to Own a Firearm in SC Restored?
The only way to restore your right to own a firearm under SC gun laws and federal law is to get a pardon.
A pardon will restore your civil rights, including your right to own a firearm and any other "disabilities under the law" like your right to hold occupational licenses.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime under SC gun laws, your SC criminal defense lawyer at Axelrod and Associates will help you to fight the charges. Or, if you have convictions on your record that prevent you from owning a firearm, a pardon attorney on the Axelrod team may be able to help you restore your civil rights.