Statehouse Session

The entrance of the House of Representatives at the South Carolina Statehouse. Grace Beahm/Staff

COLUMBIA — House members voted Wednesday to recognize the concealed weapons permits of most adults from states that recognize permits from South Carolina.

As initially proposed, the bill would have allowed anyone who possessed a concealed weapons permit from any state to carry legally in South Carolina. But 10 states do not recognize weapons permits of any state other than their own.

The bill was amended on the floor to grant reciprocity only with states that will recognize the permits of South Carolinians and was approved by a 85-23 margin. 

Spartanburg Republican Rep. Eddie Tallon said he sponsored the amendment to grant "true reciprocity," meaning the state only accept the permits from the states that accept South Carolina's.

But bill sponsor, Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, urged for lawmakers not to get hung up on the word "reciprocity," and instead vote to grant recognition of the permits of all states.

"True recognition is better because it takes us closer to the standard of the Second Amendment," Clemmons said. "Again I remind you, this bill is top priority nationally for the National Rifle Association."

The move comes as gun reform activists have sought to strengthen the state's laws, many targeting the errant background check process that allowed convicted Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof to buy a pistol two months before killing nine worshipers inside the Charleston church in 2015.

Bills that would either lengthen the waiting period when purchasing a gun or stiffen penalties for those caught carrying the weapons illegally have yet to get initial consideration from lawmakers

If the new gun permit reciprocity bill becomes law, concealed weapons permit holders ages 21 and older from up to 16 states could be recognized in South Carolina. South Carolina already has reciprocity with 23 states.

The bill also will grant all active members of the military under age 21 the ability to carry weapons in South Carolina, whether or not they live in the state. Current law requires all permit holders be at least 21.

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While Tallon's amendment made several lawmakers more comfortable with the bill, some continued to oppose the measure because many other states do not require those carrying guns to complete training or pass a background check before being issued a permit.

In her opposition to the bill, Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, D-Lancaster, listed several ways in which South Carolina's concealed weapons permit process did not line up with other states. For example, 15 states allow people who have been convicted of crimes of domestic violence, or who are currently subject to domestic violence restraining orders, to obtain concealed weapons permits.

"There are 22 states that grant permits to convicted stalkers," she said. "Do we want those people carrying in South Carolina?"

After receiving an expected perfunctory third approval on Thursday, the bill will have to work its way through the Senate in the final week of the session before it could become law. The guns bill would still have another year to win passage if it fails to get out of the Senate by next week.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.

Maya T. Prabhu covers the Statehouse from Columbia. She previously covered city government and other topics in South Carolina and Maryland. Maya has a bachelors in English from Spelman College and a masters in journalism from the University of Maryland.