The South Carolina Legislature comprehensively preempts 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

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

  • Careless or negligent discharge of firearms;
  • Public brandishment of firearms; and
  • Public brandishment of firearms during times of insurrection, invasions, riots or natural disasters, or when there is a demonstrated potential for such events.3

State law also expressly denies any county, municipality or political subdivision the power to confiscate a firearm or ammunition unless incident to arrest.4

There are no cases interpreting sections 23-31-510 or 23-31-520. 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 (permitting 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 work place, 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

South Carolina also prohibits a nuisance action for noise against a shooting range or the owners, operators, or users of the range, located in the vicinity of a potential plaintiff’s property if the shooting range was already established when the person acquired the property.8 A property owner may bring such action if there has been a substantial change in the use of the range after the person acquires the property, if the suit is brought within three years of the beginning of this substantial change.9 A person who acquired property near a shooting range before the range was established may maintain a nuisance action for noise if brought within five years after establishment or three years after a substantial change in usage of the range.10

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.11

A local government is not otherwise prohibited from regulating the location and construction of a new shooting range after May 1, 2000.12

Notes
  1. S.C. Code Ann. § 23-31-510. ⤴︎
  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. § 31-18-30(A). ⤴︎
  9. Id. ⤴︎
  10. S.C. Code Ann. § 31-18-30(B). ⤴︎
  11. S.C. Code Ann. § 31-18-40. ⤴︎
  12. S.C. Code Ann. § 31-18-50. ⤴︎