(Walhalla, SC)--------------------------------------On August 15th, the Open Carry with Training Act takes effect in South Carolina. And with the new law comes changes in regards to how current and valid Concealed Weapon Permit holders can choose carry their weapon in location’s where it is lawful to do so. With that in mind, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is issuing this release to provide further information.
The Act, which was passed by the South Carolina Legislature and signed by Governor Henry McMaster in the spring, goes into effect Sunday after a 90 day implementation period. The Act allows individuals with a valid Concealed Weapons Permit to carry either in the open or concealed where it is lawful for them to do so, in both instances.
On August 9th, the Sheriff’s Office released a special edition of The Deputy podcast to provide information on the new law. During the podcast episode, Captain Jeff Underwood of the Uniform Patrol Division provided some basic specifics on the act itself as well as some additional background information. Captain Underwood had an opportunity to take part in some of the legislative discussions that occurred surrounding the new Act as a board member and District Ten representative with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association.
“South Carolina has traditionally been a CWP, or a Concealed Weapons Permit state, where individuals and citizens can carry a firearm on their person if they’ve went through SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) approved training to receive their Concealed Weapons Permit but it had to be concealed on their person,” according to Captain Underwood. “The one place it doesn’t apply to, out in public, is if somebody has a firearm in their vehicle, it would be considered a pistol, if they keep it in a closed and latched glove box or a center console, a latching compartment. Even the trunk would suffice. Then someone without a permit could carry in those locations in their vehicle.”
“Obviously there was still restrictions, even if you had a permit, to where you could carry that. You couldn’t carry a firearm into a bank, a liquor store, private businesses that had the restrictions posted. So, it wasn’t still carte blanche to carry anywhere,” continues to Captain Underwood.
“This law change is kind of a trend that we have seen over the last couple of years with states, some instituting a constitutional carry but that is not what this is and it is in the title. It’s open carry with training, which means that you still have to have that permit to carry the firearm but this will allow permit holders to carry a visible firearm on their person in certain public areas, the same place that they would have been able to carry with their normal CWP,” according to Captain Underwood.
One nuance of the Open Carry with Training Act in South Carolina is that citizens who have a valid Concealed Weapons Permits that are issued by other states, and those states have what is called “reciprocity” with South Carolina, then citizens of those states will be allowed to carry open or concealed where it is lawful to do so as well in South Carolina. Reciprocity, according to Captain Underwood, is where those states, and South Carolina, have come to a legislative agreement to honor those valid permits and their holders from that particular state. Those permit holders, however, must follow the laws of that state, even though their permit may not have come from that state.
Citizens can go to this link from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division website: https://www.sled.sc.gov/cwp.html to look at states that have reciprocity with South Carolina in regards to Concealed Weapons Permits. Captain Underwood says that it is the responsibility of the permit holder, if they are going to be traveling, to find out if the state they will be traveling has reciprocity with South Carolina and what the current laws in that state are.
Also during The Deputy podcast, Captain Underwood and Master Deputy Watt also discussed some other important points:
· The importance of having a good holster for your firearm, if you decide to carry in the open in regards to weapon retention, will be on the citizen to make sure their firearm is secure because the weapon owner is responsible for their firearm whether they are in possession of it or not.
· Captain Underwood expects there to be a learning curve with the new Open Carry with Training Act, not just for citizens seeing citizens open carrying but for law enforcement as well. Officers must have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to detain anyone and certainly will question that individual regarding their permit status if they observe a firearm in the open or concealed. Should a citizen, who is lawfully carrying in the open with a valid permit, decline to speak with a deputy concerning his/her status during a consensual encounter, Captain Underwood said officers will have to respect that citizen’s decision and right not to talk to deputies under those circumstances. However, Captain Underwood says that it has been his experience, in traffic stops for example, that citizens have been forthcoming with law enforcement in showing their CWP to show they can legally carry their weapon.
Even with the changes in the law, non-permit holders can be charged with Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon if an officer finds that weapon on their person, either in the open or concealed, under a seat or in a seat of a motor vehicle and in a place of business or a building in which carrying a firearm is illegal regardless, such as in a Detention Facility or into a Courthouse. Also, citizens can still be charged with Pointing and Presenting a Firearm if you brandish a firearm at a person unlawfully.
· Even with the new Open Carry with Training Act, property owners will still have to grant consent for an individual to carry firearms on their property. Also, church officials or church governing bodies may allow a person who holds a permit to carry a concealable weapon either concealed or openly on the campus of a church or on the premises of schools leased by the church in a temporary fashion during those services.
· In regards to his message to the deputies from the Uniform Patrol Division in regards to the New Open Carry with Training Act, Captain Underwood says that he is going to emphasize safety, for citizens, offenders and other law enforcement officers, which is the number one priority always on the job regardless. Captain Underwood will emphasize to his deputies to be calm, slow down, take their time and if they need to, contact a supervisor for guidance. If our citizens have any questions, they are welcome to contact their local law enforcement agency if they have any questions about the New Open Carry with Training Act.
According to Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw, S.C. Code Ann § 23-31-235 governs the posting of signs which prohibits the carrying of a concealable weapon, whether concealed or openly carried, upon any premises, regardless if the premises has doors that provides access or no doors. Also, the signs expressing the prohibition must be in both written language and in universal sign language. Some of the provisions of the law are as follows:
· All signs must be posted at each entrance into a building where a concealable weapon permit holder is prohibited from carrying a concealable weapon, whether concealed or openly carried, must be:
1. clearly visible from outside the building
2. eight inches wide by twelve inches tall in size
3. contains the words NO CONCEALABLE WEAPONS ALLOWED in black one-inch tall uppercase type at the bottom of the sign and centered between the lateral edges of the sign
4. contains a black silhouette of a handgun inside of a circle seven inches in diameter with a diagonal line that runs from the lower left to the upper right at a forty-five degree angle from the horizontal
5. a diameter of a circle
6. placed not less that forty inches and not more than sixty inches from the bottom of the building’s entrance door.
· If the premises where concealable weapons are prohibited does not have doors, then the signs have to meet the following criteria:
1) They must be thirty-six inches wide by forty-eight inches tall in size
2) Contain the words NO CONCEALABLE WEAPONS ALLOWED in black three-inch tall uppercase type at the bottom of the sign and centered between the lateral edges of the sign
3) Contain a black silhouette of a handgun inside a circle thirty-four inches in diameter with a diagonal line that is two inches wide and runs from the lower left to the upper right at a forty-five degree angle from the horizontal and must be a diameter of a circle whose circumference is two-inches wide
4) Placed not less that forty inches and not more than ninety-six inches above the ground
5) Posted in sufficient quantities to be clearly visible from any point of entry onto the premises
· Nothing in this section prevents a public or private employer or owner of a business from posting a sign regarding the prohibition of allowance on those premises of concealable weapons, whether concealed or openly carried, which may be unique to that business.