South Carolina's governor marks new gun law with ceremonial bill signing


COLUMBIA — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster held a ceremony Tuesday to spotlight a new law allowing any adult who can legally own a gun to carry the weapon openly without a permit.

McMaster signed the bill into law 12 days ago as soon as it hit his desk, allowing open carry before the ink had dried. Tuesday's Statehouse event outside his office was a day to let everyone who pushed for the law to take a victory lap.

"This is a happy day. It's a good step forward," the Republican governor said.

The new law changes how police do their jobs. Guns can now be carried anywhere inside a vehicle — the dashboard, a seat, a cup holder, instead of it being required to be hidden in a console or glove compartment.

Officers can no longer stop someone who is just carrying a gun, and anyone carrying a concealed weapon is no longer required to tell an officer he or she is armed.

Concealed weapons permits are still available, and the bill makes the training free across the state. Budget writers will have to set aside $4 million to $5 million to provide the classes in each of South Carolina's 46 counties.

Encouraging the training provided in those classes was one of the biggest roadblocks to getting the new law passed. Many police departments and some lawmakers who usually support fewer restrictions on guns felt people still need to get training before they should be able to carry a weapon in public.

The law also allows anyone ages 18 to 20 who doesn't have a felony conviction or other legal problem to carry a gun. The old concealed weapons law set a minimum age at 21.

"The Constitution doesn't specify the age," said Republican Rep. Shane Martin, who helped get the bill through the Senate. "Whether you like it or not, those 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds should be eligible."