Preemption Statutes

The South Carolina Legislature preempts many local firearm and ammunition laws. South Carolina’s statute provides, in part, that:

No governing body of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision in the State may enact or promulgate any regulation or ordinance that regulates or attempts to regulate…the transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, or any combination of these things.1

South Carolina also preempts ordinances or regulations that regulate a landowner discharging a firearm on his or her property to defend himself, herself, his or her family, employees, or the general public from animals the landowner reasonably believes pose a direct threat or danger.2

State law also expressly denies any county, municipality or political subdivision the power to confiscate a firearm or ammunition unless incident to arrest.3

Exceptions

Three express exceptions exist to South Carolina’s preemption provisions. Counties, municipalities and other political subdivisions in South Carolina may regulate the following:

  • Careless or negligent discharge of firearms
  • Public brandishment of firearms
  • Public brandishment of firearms during times of insurrection, invasions, riots or natural disasters, or when there is a demonstrated potential for such events4

Interpretation

There are no cases interpreting sections 23-31-510 or 23-31-520. However, in 2009, the South Carolina Attorney General was asked whether section 23-31-510 prohibits a county ordinance that bans the possession of guns in county parks.5 The Attorney General stated that, to resolve this question, section 23-31-510 must be read in conjunction with section 23-31-220, which permits a public or private employer, property owner, or person in legal possession or control of premises to prohibit concealable weapons on their property or in the workplace, with proper notice. According to the Attorney General, the statutes operate together to allow a county to “prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons in County parks.”6

The South Carolina Attorney General has also stated that under sections 23-31-510 and 23-31-520, an ordinance that prohibits the sale of firearms within city limits would not be authorized.7

Other Statutory Provisions

A county, municipal, or state noise control ordinance, rule, or regulation may not:

  • Require or be applied to require a shooting range to limit or eliminate shooting activities that occurred on a regular basis before January 1, 2000;
  • Be applied to a shooting range that was in compliance with a noise control ordinance as of the date of the establishment of the shooting range, provided there has been no substantial change in the use of the range subsequently; or
  • Be applied to a shooting range that was in existence prior to the enactment of a noise control ordinance, rule, or regulation, provided there has been no substantial change in the use of the range.8

A local government is not otherwise prohibited from regulating the location and construction of a new shooting range after May 1, 2000.9

Immunity

For state laws prohibiting the filing of certain types of lawsuits against the gun industry and shooting ranges, see our page on Immunity Statutes in South Carolina.

Notes
  1. S.C. Code Ann. § 23-31-510(1). ⤴︎
  2. S.C. Code Ann. § 23-31-510(2). ⤴︎
  3. S.C. Code Ann. § 23-31-520. ⤴︎
  4. S.C. Code Ann. § 23-31-520. ⤴︎
  5. 2009 S.C. AG LEXIS 38 (March 5, 2009). ⤴︎
  6. 2009 S.C. AG LEXIS 38 (March 5, 2009), *8-*9. ⤴︎
  7. 1991 S.C. AG LEXIS 218 (October 3, 1991). ⤴︎
  8. S.C. Code Ann. § 31-18-40. ⤴︎
  9. S.C. Code Ann. § 31-18-50. ⤴︎