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Can I Carry My Handgun in My Car in South Carolina?

Can I Carry My Handgun in My Car in South Carolina?

Can I Carry My Handgun in My Car in South Carolina?

The ever-evolving legislation surrounding U.S. gun laws can make it difficult to understand what’s legal when it comes to firearm use and ownership in South Carolina. Recently, the state made national headlines after deciding to allow Permitless carry of handguns, initiating an important dialogue regarding questions and legal implications of gun laws in 2023.

Can drivers keep firearms in their vehicles without a permit on South Carolina roads? Keep reading to learn more about driving with a handgun in your vehicle in SC.

What Are South Carolina’s Gun Laws in 2023?

Effective 2023, the South Carolina House approved a bill allowing lawful firearm owners to carry handguns openly or concealed without a state permit (commonly known as “permitless carry” laws). This means that individuals who are legally able to possess a firearm in South Carolina may now do so without obtaining a concealed weapons permit (CWP).

Can I Have a Gun in My Car without a Permit?

Yes. Under South Carolina Code §16-23-20, gun owners are legally permitted to have a firearm in their vehicle, with or without a concealed weapons permit, as outlined below:

  • Drivers with a concealed weapons permit (CWP) can carry their licensed firearm openly in the vehicle.
  • Drivers without a concealed weapons permit (CWP) may still carry their handgun in their vehicle, but only if certain legal requirements are met.

To lawfully carry an unlicensed handgun on South Carolina roads, the driver must ensure the weapon is secured. Owners must store unlicensed firearms in a secure place (such as locked glove compartments, consoles, trunks, or other closed containers with an "integral fastener") and transport the secured weapon in the vehicle's luggage department.

Regardless of the type of storage you choose to transport your firearm, it’s crucial to ensure it is lockable (e.g., no tote bags, moving boxes, or other unlocked methods of transportation). It’s imperative to thoroughly review §16-23-20(9)(a) to understand acceptable means of firearm transport on South Carolina roads in 2023.

South Carolina: An “Open Carry” State

As of 2023, it’s typically legal to carry a firearm in South Carolina, even without a CWP. Lawful firearm owners can legally carry a permitless weapon in the following scenarios:

  • Carrying at Home or Place of Business: Individuals are allowed to carry handguns on their own private property or within the confines of their place of business without a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP). This exception recognizes the right to protect oneself and one's property.
  • Transporting Firearms in Vehicles: South Carolina law permits the transportation of handguns in vehicles without a CWP, as long as the firearm is securely encased or stored. The firearm should be in a closed glove compartment, console, trunk, or another similar compartment. This exception allows gun owners to transport firearms for legitimate purposes such as hunting or target practice.
  • Lawful Hunting and Target Practice: Individuals engaged in lawful hunting or target practice are permitted to carry handguns without a CWP while involved in these activities. This exception acknowledges the need for firearms during specific recreational and sporting activities.

While permitless carry is now allowed in South Carolina, individuals should still familiarize themselves with the specific laws and regulations surrounding firearm possession and use to ensure compliance.

Types of Firearm Offenses in South Carolina

In South Carolina, gun offenses can lead to severe penalties if convicted. Below are some common types of weapons violations in SC:

Unlawful Possession of a Firearm

Unlawful possession of a firearm is a serious firearm offense in South Carolina. This crime involves possessing a firearm without the required legal authorization. Examples include individuals with prior felony convictions, those subject to restraining orders, or individuals under the age of 18 who possess a handgun.

Penalties for unlawful possession of a firearm can vary depending on the specific circumstances and the defendant’s criminal history. Generally speaking, a conviction for this offense can result in felony charges punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and significant fines.

Unlicensed Carry

Carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is another common firearm offense in South Carolina. This offense occurs when an individual carries a firearm in a concealed manner without the necessary permit issued by the state.

If convicted of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, the penalties can include a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and fines. The state of South Carolina upholds specific requirements for obtaining a concealed weapons permit, and failure to comply with these regulations can lead to criminal charges.

Possession of a Stolen Firearm

Possessing a stolen firearm is a serious offense that is taken very seriously by law enforcement in South Carolina. This offense is charged when an individual knowingly possesses a firearm that has been reported stolen or unlawfully obtained, and the penalties for possession of a stolen firearm can be substantial.

If convicted, individuals can reap felony charges punishable by extensive imprisonment and substantial fines. The criminal penalties for possession of a stolen firearm charge can be enhanced (e.g., carry harsher penalties) if the firearm was used in the commission of another crime, such as to commit a domestic violence offense.

Illegal Sale or Transfer of a Firearm

Engaging in the illegal sale or transfer of a firearm is another gun-related crime that can lead to severe criminal penalties in South Carolina. This offense involves the unauthorized sale, transfer, or distribution of firearms, including selling firearms without completing the necessary background checks or transferring firearms to individuals who are prohibited by law from possessing them.

The penalties for illegal sale or transfer of a firearm can be particularly harsh. A conviction for this offense can result in felony charges punishable by up to 10 years in prison and significant fines. It’s imperative to adhere to the legal requirements when engaging in any firearm sales or transfers to avoid criminal charges and defend your freedom.

Aggressive Criminal Defense Lawyer in Lexington, SC

At the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, our skilled criminal defense attorneys have nearly two decades of experience representing the accused in Lexington and the surrounding areas. From drug crimes to DUI defense, our knowledgeable firm has an in-depth understanding of criminal law in South Carolina to relentlessly pursue justice on your behalf. We offer free consultations for your convenience. Reach out to our office today to consult with an award-winning defense attorney in SC.

Charged with a crime? Our fierce defense attorneys can fight to restore your freedom. Call (803) 359-3301 to schedule a free consultation.


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