COLUMBIA — State senators taking up a bill to grant concealed-carry gun permit reciprocity with Georgia will likely face the question of whether doing so would lead some states to cancel their existing agreements with South Carolina.
South Carolina recognizes the CWPs of nearly two-dozen states, which also recognize South Carolina. North Augusta Republican Rep. Bill Hixon’s bill, H. 3799, would enact agreements with Georgia and North Carolina.
“I don’t want to see us give up reciprocity with other states in the process, and that’s always been a concern,” said Sen. Larry Martin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said the state’s law enforcement division had raised the possibility.
“It all centers on the agreements that have been signed, and some of those agreements, from what I understand, are a little bit different today than they were when the reciprocity issue first started back in the ’90s.”
The S.C. House passed Hixon’s bill 101-5 in April and sent it to the Senate, where it awaits a Judiciary subcommittee hearing. If the bill passes, Georgia would honor South Carolina’s permits.
Martin said he supports Hixon’s bill but offered a warning: A South Carolina CWP might be recognized in another state, but that state’s unique gun laws must still be learned and followed. Martin, a Pickens Republican, said he does not have a CWP but that he might occasionally drive with a gun in his glovebox, which is legal in South Carolina without a CWP.
“If you get in a wreck or you get pulled over, you have to produce your insurance information. The first thing you do if that gun is in your glovebox is you say, “Officer, I’ve got a gun in my glove box,” said Martin. “And then if he gets to questing you about it, you can wind up in trouble, in possession of a weapon unlawful in that state.”
Not all lawmakers whose district touches the Savannah River favor CWP reciprocity with Georgia.
Sen. Floyd Nicholson, D-Greenwood, expressed a more general view of concealed-carry practices.
“Carrying weapons? I’m totally opposed. It’s just my personal opinion. I don’t own a gun. I am not a hunter, and I have nothing against those individuals who hunt. But just carrying a weapon around? I think we’re going back to the Wild Wild West,” said Nicholson.
A portion of his district borders the Savannah River, and stretches across parts McCormick, Greenwood, Saluda and Abbeville counties.
“Give everybody a holster and a gun and let them go, like they’re doing in Texas? I’m just opposed to this.”
In past legislative meetings on proposals to expand reciprocity, the S.C. Sheriffs Association, the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and former SLED chief Robert Stewart had raised safety concerns.
In particular, some argued that unlike South Carolina, Georgia has no centralized collection of arrests that should affect a permit holder’s status. The training disparity, too, has prompted some to caution against unsafe firearm handling: Georgia concealed-weapon permit holders aren’t forced to undergo training, while South Carolina requires it.