Friday, January 24, 2014

Cold Breakdown of the SC CWP Bill

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I'm both a lawyer and a gun owner with a CWP here in South Carolina. The new CWP bill that is about to become law hasn't really received an in-depth analysis other than focus on "you can carry in restaurants" line.

I'm not just blaming newspaper journalists here. Even the NRA's legal blog team has a cursory few sentences about this law that don't really tell you much. When you dig into this bill, there are actually some serious things that people need to know.

So, I (your humble blogger) have done the hard work of looking at the actual legislative language of the bill to let you know exactly what this bill does and doesn't do. So, here goes. (The alphabetical list is my own. It doesn't refer to any specific subsections. It was just a way to organize the points.)
A.     Carry Allowed into Restaurants and Bars: This is what most people know, as it's the big headline getter. As it stands right now, a person with a valid CWP (like me) cannot carry concealed into a bar or restaurant that sells alcohol for on-premises consumption. That means I can't carry into Apple-bee's or Rosso tonight because they serve alcohol. So, this law now amends that provision to say that a person who has a valid CWP license may carry concealed into a a business which sells alcoholic liquor, beer, or wine for consumption. However, that person may not consume alcohol at all. If you drink while carrying, you lose your CWP, and can go to jail for up to two years.

B.     Restaurants and Bars May Prohibit Carry: Now, there are a good number of people who don't like the new tweak to the law as described above. Accordingly, there's a second tweak. Any restaurant and bar may simply post a sign that prohibits carrying concealed, and no one will be allowed to carry concealed. If you ignore the sign and carry concealed anyway, same penalty as above. I like to think of this as the "If you like your gun free zone, you can keep your gun free zone" provision.

Additionally, even if the bar or restaurant doesn't post the sign, they can still request that any particular person carrying concealed leave on a case-by-case basis. If that person refuses to leave, same penalty as above. So if you're a bar or restaurant, you can either chose to have an entirely gun free zone, or a selectively gun free zone.

C.     Tweaks to CWP Applications/Requirements: Before, you had to have a valid SC driver's license. Now, any photo ID issued by a state will work, as long as you qualify as a resident. The residency definition is also modified to allow certain classes of applicants (former and/or current military, police, law enforcement) to be exempt from most the training certifications.

D.     Elimination of the 8 Hour Training Requirement: Before, pretty much everyone had to go through a class that was a minimum of 8 hours as a requirement for your CWP. The 8 hour class length requirement has been eliminated. You still have to do the same things (including actually firing a handgun in the presence of the instructor) but there's no time minimum for each class.

E.     Online Applications: You can now submit your application to SLED online.

F.     Express Written Consent In Contradiction of Posted Sign: Kind of an interesting amendment. You can now, post a sign in front of your business and completely prohibit concealed carry. This bill now has a provision that would allow the owner to issue someone a written exemption from the sign generally prohibiting carrying.

G.     Renewals/Vehicle Storage: Currently, your CWP is valid for four years, then you have to renew. The bill changes that to five years. The renewal fee is still $50.00. Also, it allows CWP holders to store a pistol under their seat in their vehicle or in any storage compartment. (Although I wouldn't recommend that.)
That's basically it. So on to the opinion part of this.

Is this a good bill or not? The substantive part about carrying in places that serve alcohol is not as big of a deal as either side would probably want you to believe. If you run a bar or restaurant and you want to keep CWP folks out, then all you have to do is put up a sign. The good thing about this law is that it doesn't force anyone to do anything. It offers a set of rules for everyone to follow according to whatever choices they want to make, and I like that.

Just because I like to carry CWP doesn't mean everyone does. I'm sure there are people out there who own restaurants that don't want guns in their establishments. That's fine. This law respects their wishes.

As for the other provisions, I'm not really wild about eliminating the 8 hour minimum class time. I took the class, and it was really informative, even though I already had a solid background in guns and shooting. There were some people in my class who has zero knowledge going in, and they needed every minute of that eight hours to get comfortable. At the end, they felt very much empowered by their knowledge of how a gun actually works, the different parts of a gun, and all sorts of other basics. I just don't feel like 8 hours is too much to ask for if you're going to want to carry CWP, if you're going to take it seriously.

Also, if you read the NRA's summary of the law, they say this bill "improves training standards". I kind of think that's misleading at best.

I'm fine with the online application, since you have to send all the same information anyway. It's just an acknowledgement that e-mail is a simple way to communicate.

The express written consent is an interesting tweak. It means that someone can selectively allow CWP into their place by giving written consent to whomever they choose. I guess if a bar or restaurant wanted to ban CWP, but then wanted to allow a regular guy they know really well to carry, they can exempt him. Kind of interesting, and since it's all left up to the individual owners, I'm fine with that. I doubt this will happen much in practice, though.

So is it a good law? I think it's a good law in that it has taken an existing law and given more flexibility for each individual citizen and business to decide how they want to conduct themselves. Will it actually change that much of what goes on in practical terms? Probably not. All the folks who say this bill will turn SC into the "wild west" with shootouts in saloons are blowing smoke. Guns are a hot-button issue, so each political "team" will try to amp their base up by either saying this law is horrible or that it's panacea. To me, it's very vanilla stuff that could have easily been included in the first CWP Bill.

If you're an anti-gun person, I hope this analysis has calmed you. If you're pro-gun, I hope this has shown you that you don't have the freedom to carry anywhere anytime, and that there are stiff penalties for breaking the law in this regard.

So there you have it, campers. I feel that I've done my public service for the week and made up for not posting yesterday. If you have any questions or comments about the CWP bill, I'd be interested to hear them. Also, if you think I got any interpretation of the law wrong, let me know.


  1. The graphic makes me want to know what SC law says about open carry. Is it verboten?

  2. Bryan, thanks for the analysis. I linked your post over on the GrassrootsSC Yahoo Group. Stay warm!

    1. What's the link to the Yahoo group? I wouldn't mind checking that out from time to time.


    3. Good group -- you'd be a welcome addition. Vast levels of experience represented there, including several who have been essential in getting the CWP law passed initially, and then making statutory improvements as politics allowed.

  3. As a CWP instructor I like that the "Must be 8 hrs" is no longer held over my head But I don't it will change how I teach the Class, but it will allow for some adjustment based on class size and back ground. And change to the carring in vehicles is long over due. In my class I usually end up discussing where to carry in a vehicle more than any other topic.

  4. I agree with you about eliminating the 8 hour course. Not only does it educate people. It also gives even knowledgible gun owners/carriers a chance to get clarification on anything that they don't fully understand. The instructors can break it down into a language a common citizen understands. Thank you for doing just that with the new law.

  5. I don't know if it's as simple as posting 'A' sign - meaning not just any sign will do. SC Code SECTION 23-31-235: Sign requirements is pretty specific (written intentionally that way). It gives you a leg to stand on if you ever caught ignoring an improper sign.

    1. You're absolutely right about the sign requirements. I didn't go into it in my piece, but your right. The signs for "posting" have to be very specific in a great many details. (height, width, font, where the sign is located in relation to the door, and from the floor, etc.)

      Not sure if the law was intentionally written to be hard to comply with or not, but it's definitely specific.

  6. Thanks for the breakdown Bryan! I thought I remembered clauses already in the current law that allows express consent where it is otherwise prohibited. It is currently in there for churches and medical facilities. They are just continuing the language and ability in the new law for other businesses. I agree - as you said, if you are the owner and you want to let someone you know carry with a CWP in your place of business, more power to you.

  7. I liked the breakdown Bryan. Thanks for that. As a multiple unit owner of restaurants in SC, I see it as an advantage to let CWP holders know that they are very welcome in my restaurants. I also see it as an opportunity to know who will stand with the 2nd Amendment or not by their posting of signs that IMO say "Don't Eat Here" if they're against you protecting yourself in their establishment.

    I agree with Kent, the current laws are the same as they are with consent if a customer wants to carry when it is prohimited.

    And Bryan, yes....the ones that consulted on the sign requirement laws (I know one of them) told me they were very specific in very odd dimensions and placement in order to hinder compliance of the law. There are things I look for that very few establisments get correct based on that conversation. It's pretty funny to see the half a$$ed efforts anti gun establishents try when posting their signs.

  8. Just because a particular bar or restaurant has a " no concealed weapons allowed sign " this will not stop a bad guy from entering and robbing everyone. He'll know no one is armed.

  9. I appreciate the information you have provided. As a CWP instructor I am not in favor of eliminating the 8 hour rule for training. If your classes are very small 3-4 students it can be a stretch to get to the 8 hours because that includes range time. My one point I would like to make is: What impact will this have on our current and future reciprocity agreements. I can only think that other states that require mandated training (with minimum times identified) would now reconsider weather or not they want to continue to recognize our CWP. Please what are your thoughts on this?

    1. I'm honestly not sure how it will affect reciprocity. That's a good question.