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Article I, § 20 of the South Carolina Constitution provides, in part, that “[a] well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

There are not many cases interpreting Article 1, § 20. In the 1907 case State v. Johnson, the Supreme Court of South Carolina rejected a challenge to a Charleston ordinance prohibiting the discharge of firearms within the city limits.1 The court reasoned that the ordinance did not run afoul of the state constitutional right to bear arms by prohibiting an individual from possessing a firearm on his or her premises, but merely prohibited him or her from discharging the gun within the city limits. Thus, the court held that the ordinance was a reasonable exercise of the city’s police power.2

More recently, in the 2008 case State v. Bolin, the Supreme Court of South Carolina rejected a defendant’s article I, § 20 challenge to his conviction for possession of a pistol by a person under age 21 per S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-30.3 Because article I, § 20 granted him the right to bear arms, defendant argued, he could not be charged with a crime for handgun possession.4 The court held that S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-30 did not violate the state right to bear arms because, although state law prohibits a person under age 21 from possessing a handgun, this does not “prevent a person under the age of 21 from possessing other types of guns.”5


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  1. 56 S.E. 544 (S.C. 1907).[]
  2. Id. at 545.[]
  3. 662 S.E.2d 38, 40 (S.C. 2008).[]
  4. Id. at 39.[]
  5. Id.[]