South Carolinians who carry a weapon legally and live near Georgia are one step closer to being able to pack heat when they cross the state line.
A Senate panel advanced three firearms-related bills Thursday morning and held one back. Those bills aim to recognize permits from North Carolina and Georgia, allow carrying a weapon without a permit, allow certain retired officials to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the state and try to limit the federal government’s authority to restrict firearms.
South Carolina currently recognizes permits from North Carolina, but not from Georgia. Rep. Bill Hixon, R-Aiken, who sponsored one of the bills, said this creates problems for people who live near the Peach State.
“We can’t go to Georgia with our concealed carry, but the folks that live up around Charlotte and Rock Hill and that area can go back and forth to North Carolina real easy,” he said. “Half the state is penalized (because of) where they live.”
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Georgia does not meet the State Law Enforcement Division’s “carry” standards, which include requiring a demonstrated proficiency with a firearm. Georgia also doesn’t have a centralized agency, such as SLED, that issues permits.
But Hixon said applying for a permit in Georgia is in some ways more difficult than in South Carolina and that the application includes questions on alcoholism and drug addiction.
“It’s probably harder to get one in Georgia,” he said.
South Carolina permits are not currently accepted in Georgia, but Hixon said Georgia automatically recognizes any state that accepts Georgia permits.
Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the South Carolina Sheriffs Association, spoke against the bill, saying that because of a lack of a central authority, Georgia residents might be convicted of crimes in one county but have valid permits from another county.
“Keeping accurate up-to-date records on CWP holders is a critical component of keeping our citizens safe,” he said.
Bruder also criticized the state’s lack of standardization. Though Georgia does have a standardized permit design, previously issued permits varied by county — and some of those are still in use until the time comes for their owners to renew, he said.
The bill will move forward when the Legislature returns after Easter, with an amendment specifying that Georgia residents must abide by South Carolina laws when carrying in the state.
Lawmakers also moved a bill forward allowing the following retired officials to carry concealed firearms anywhere in the state:
- Supreme Court justices
- Judges of the court of appeals
- Circuit court judges
- Family court judges
- Probate court judges
- Municipal court judges
- Federal judges
- Administrative law judges
- Solicitors and assistant solicitors
- Workers’ compensation commissioners
Current state law allows those officials to carry, but not after they retire. Legislators amended the bill Thursday to include clerks of court.
The panel also approved a bill called the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” aiming to limit federal authorities’ ability to restrict firearms, ammunition and related accessories. Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, admitted the bill might not be constitutional but said legislators would “let the courts decide.”
Another bill, which would allow concealed carrying of a weapon without a permit — called “constitutional carry” — did not move forward. That bill also would recognize permits from all other states.
Elizabeth Crawford, a Lexington County resident and member of Moms Demand Action, spoke against the bill.
“This bill would let some dangerous people — and those who have never fired a gun before — carry a firearm in public without a permit,” Crawford said. “There is no legitimate public safety reason for dismantling our current system.”
Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, argued in favor of the bill, pointing to states such as West Virginia and Arizona as examples of successful permitless carry.
“The Second Amendment is very clear,” he said. “It says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. Putting a price on a permit you have to have to carry a weapon to defend yourself is an infringement.”