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Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not unlicensed sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

South Carolina is not a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks.1 In South Carolina, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.

Federal law does not require dealers to conduct a background check if a firearm purchaser presents a state permit to purchase or possess firearms that meets certain conditions.2 As a result, concealable weapons permit holders in South Carolina are exempt from the federal background check requirement.3 (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state permits to purchase or carry firearms if the state fails to remove these permits in a timely fashion.).

In 2012, South Carolina repealed its modest state law requirement that a person buying a handgun from a dealer present identification.4

South Carolina does not require unlicensed sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See our Universal Background Checks policy summary.


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  1. ATF, “Permanent Brady State List,” accessed October 8, 2020,[]
  2. Federal law exempts persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms from background checks if those permits were issued: 1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and 2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation, including a search of the NICS database, to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d).[]
  3. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department. of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart (June 10, 2014), at:[]
  4. 2012 S.C. Act No. 285.[]