NRA's permit push finds doubters locally

The National Rifle Asso­ciation wants concealed weapons permits issued in one state to be recognized in all others, but area firearm community members say that goal is likely unobtainable.


At its national conference in Indianapolis in April, the NRA called on Congress to mandate that all weapons-carry permits be recognized by all other states, even those where local requirements differ.

Any move in Washington that calls for greater reciprocity among states would undoubtably allow Georgians to carry concealed weapons in South Carolina, which currently doesn’t recognize the Georgia Weapons Carry Permit. South Carolina doesn’t issue permits to non-residents, who must own land in the state before they can apply for a permit.

“On the Georgia side of the line, all there is is a background check,” said Buddy Lichty, the owner of Shooters Indoor Range and Gun Shop in Augusta. “There’s no qualification. There no class. That’s probably the primary reason that Georgia and South Carolina (permits) don’t reciprocate.”

Though Georgia doesn’t recognize permits issued by South Carolina, residents of the Palmetto State can still carry concealed weapons in Georgia by obtaining a non-resident permit in a state that does issue a permit recognized by Georgia, such as Utah or Florida.

Chris Medlin, the owner and primary instructor of Your Best Defense in Aiken, said the differences between gun laws in Georgia and South Carolina are proof enough that a
compromise among all the states, particularly ones that don’t recognize any weapons permits from another state, is highly unlikely.
While some activists say granting reciprocity would be no different than how states recognize out-of-state driver’s licenses, Medlin said, the difference in driving laws from state to state is marginal. Gun laws are a different beast, he said.

“The mindset of the people and the legislators in those states, like California, is so drastically different from the mindset of the people in South Carolina and Georgia,” he said. “There is no way they would ever accept our kind of standards, and there’s no way people in Georgia or South Carolina would ever tolerate the restrictions that those states have. It would never happen.”

Medlin said bringing the federal government into the fold is ill-advised.

“The federal government getting involved and mandating the states to do something like that opens the door (to) the federal government forcing states to recognize other things that aren’t allowed in others, such as Colorado
legalizing (recreational) marijuana,” he said.
Lichty said he would like to one day see reciprocity among all of the states but believes it can happen only if states like Georgia require some form of formal training before issuing permits.

“I am for carrying deadly force legally,” he said. “But I think for anybody who wants to carry, it’s a huge responsibility for them to be qualified to do.”

Even if the standards change in Georgia, Lichty said it could be years before more states recognize each other’s permits.

In the meantime, Medlin said responsible gun owners and permit holders should research the laws of other states before traveling through them.

“Before you carry a gun or buy a gun for self-defense, you should do some research and check what the rules are for the state that you live in or the state that you’re going to on where you can carry a gun and where you can’t,” he said. “Some parts of the country expect you to be climbing out of your back window when someone is kicking your door in. Luckily, in the Southeast, we don’t have to. But if you’re in that part of the country, saying, ‘I didn’t know,’ isn’t an excuse.”


IN GEORGIA: The application process is as simple as paying the $79.25 application fee and filling out paperwork. Applicants are fingerprinted and photographed, and the process takes roughly 15 minutes to complete. After a mandatory background check by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the county’s probate judge signs off on the permit, which is received by mail in about two weeks.

IN SOUTH CAROLINA: Permit hopefuls must attend an eight-hour course taught by a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division-certified concealed weapons permit instructor before they begin the application process, said Chris Medlin, the owner and primary instructor of Your Best Defense in Aiken.

Courses cost about $100 and require students to pass a written test on state laws and demonstrate the ability to load and fire a handgun. After passing the course, applicants can submit their paperwork – which includes proof of training, fingerprints and a $50 application fee – to SLED, which issues a permit within 90 days.

– Travis Highfield, staff writer