Gun crime remains a hot topic both nationally and locally. The United States and the individual states, including South Carolina, have laws regarding the purchase, ownership and possession of guns. Federal law may differ from South Carolina law, so for the purpose of this article, we will only reference South Carolina law.
Recently, there have been numerous reports of guns stolen from parked vehicles, unlocked or otherwise. According to crime statistics from the Charleston Police Department (CPD), in the first 11 months of 2022, 147 guns were stolen from parked vehicles in the city, which includes Daniel Island and the Clements Ferry Road corridor. Of the 147 guns stolen, 127 (86%) were stolen from unlocked vehicles.
According to the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, in the first 11 months of 2022, 44 guns were reported stolen from vehicles and 37 (84%) of those guns were stolen from unlocked vehicles.
According to a gun research group, four South Carolina cities are ranked in the top 20 nationwide for the most guns stolen from cars per capita. Columbia is ranked at No. 3, with North Charleston at No. 4, Greenville at No. 9 and Charleston at No. 16. This data was obtained
from the FBI and is based on gun theft data from 271 cities across the nation.
There are no laws in South Carolina that prohibit or punish a gun owner from leaving a gun(s) in a parked and unlocked vehicle. Additionally, there are no laws in South Carolina that require a gun owner to report the theft or loss of a gun.
In South Carolina, a permit or a license to purchase a handgun is not required. You do not have to register a handgun you purchase or own. Any person, permit or license notwithstanding, may carry a handgun, open or concealed in their home or upon their real property or if they have the permission of the owner of the real property.
Licensed hunters /fishermen engaged in hunting or fishing or going to or from places of hunting or fishing while in a vehicle or on foot may carry a handgun without a permit.
You may carry a handgun in your vehicle, without a permit, so long as the handgun is secured:
1. In a closed glove compartment;
2. In a closed console;
3. In a closed trunk;
4. In a closed container secured by an integral fastener and transported in the luggage compartment of the vehicle.
If you have been issued a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP), then you may have more options with regard to possession of a handgun. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division maintains the rules and requirements for obtaining a CWP.
To the extent possible, assist law enforcement by locking your cars, especially if you have a gun in your vehicle. Some of these stolen guns are later used in the commission of violent crimes and everyone would like to avoid that outcome.
This is not an exhaustive list of the laws controlling guns in South Carolina, so if you are going to own or carry a gun in South Carolina, please do so
Chris Mingledorff and Michael Patterson are attorneys with Mingledorff & Patterson LLC on Daniel Island. For more information, go to mptrial.com.