Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.
A law South Carolina adopted in 2010 makes it unlawful for a person who has been convicted of a “violent crime,” as defined by South Carolina law, to possess a firearm or ammunition if the violent crime is also classified as a felony offense. A judge who hears a case involving a violent felony offense must make a specific finding on the record that the offense is a violent offense.1
South Carolina prohibits any person from possessing or acquiring a handgun if he or she:
- Has been convicted of a “crime of violence” in any court (“crime of violence” includes murder; manslaughter (except negligent manslaughter arising out of traffic accidents); rape; mayhem; kidnapping; burglary; robbery; housebreaking; assault with intent to kill, commit rape, or rob; assault with a dangerous weapon; or assault with intent to commit any offense punishable by imprisonment for more than one year);
- Is a fugitive from justice;
- Is a “habitual drunkard”;
- Has a drug addiction;
- Has been adjudicated mentally incompetent;
- Is a member of a subversive organization;
- Is under age 18 (except for a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, active or reserve, National Guard, state militia or R.O.T.C., when on duty or training; and except for the temporary loan of a handgun for instruction under the immediate supervision of a parent or adult instructor); or
- Is a person who, by order of a circuit judge or county court judge of South Carolina, has been adjudged unfit to carry or possess a firearm (such adjudication may be made upon application by any police officer or prosecuting officer of South Carolina, or by the court on its own initiative).2
The state also prohibits the purchase, sale, lease, rental, barter, exchange, transportation into the state or possession of a firearm by an undocumented immigrant.3
In 2015, South Carolina enacted a law prohibiting gun possession by certain people convicted of or subject to court orders for domestic abuse. For details, see Domestic Violence and Firearms in South Carolina.
In 2013, South Carolina enacted a law making it unlawful for people with certain mental health histories to possess firearms. 4 The law also established a procedure for these people to regain their gun eligibility.5
In addition, South Carolina prohibits providing patients and prisoners under the jurisdiction of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (“SCDMH”) with access to firearms.6 Furthermore, patients receiving inpatient services in a program under the jurisdiction of the Division of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services of the SCDMH in a treatment facility operated by SCDMH cannot possess firearms.7 A juvenile committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice is also prohibited from possessing a firearm.8
For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the South Carolina Background Checks section.
See our Firearm Prohibitions policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
- S.C. Code § 16-23-500.
- S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-30(B).
- S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-530(A).
- S.C. Code Ann. §§ 23-31-1040; 23-31-1010.
- S.C. Code Ann. § 23-31-1030.
- S.C. Code Ann. § 44-23-1080.
- S.C. Code Ann. § 44-52-165(A).
- S.C. Code Ann. § 63-19-1670(A), (B)(1).