Quick Legal Facts
South Carolina has a concealed deadly weapon statute.
There is a specific prohibition for any knife with a blade over two inches long, as well as a general prohibition to any type of weapon., in schools.
Major Cities with Knife Ordinances:
Charleston, Columbia, Greenville
At a Glance:
The primary South Carolina statute pertaining to knives is 16-23-460 captioned “Carrying concealed weapons; forfeiture of weapons.” It provides that the prohibition as to carrying concealed weapons does not apply to, among other things “dirks” and “knives.”
There are no state restrictions on the possession of knives with the understandable exception for inmates of state and local correctional facilities. (24-13-440).
16-23-405. Definition of “weapon”; confiscation and disposition of weapons used in commission or in furtherance of crime
16-23-430. Carrying weapon on school property; concealed weapons
16-23-460. Carrying concealed weapons; forfeiture of weapons
16-23-490. Additional punishment for possession of firearm or knife during commission of, or attempt to, commit a violent crime.
There is no issue under South Carolina law as to concealed carry of knives unless the knife is “used with the intent to commit a crime or in furtherance of a crime.”
Restrictions on Sale or Transfer:
Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations / Circumstances:
Knives with a blade exceeding two (2) inches may not be carried on any elementary or secondary school property except by law enforcement officers or authorized school personnel. There is no statewide airport restriction.
No. However, the South Carolina State Constitution arguably does not allow the state law regarding knives to be “set aside” by municipal or local ordinance. (See discussion below).
Major South Carolina Cities with Knife Restrictive Ordinances:
Charleston – 21-215, Prohibits concealed carry of any ice pick, knife, dagger, with a blade exceeding 3 inches in length.
Columbia – 14-102, 14-103, Section 102 prohibits carrying, concealed or otherwise, any pistol, dirk, butcher knife, case knife, sword or spear, cane, metal knuckles, razors, or other weapons of offense within the corporate limits of the city. Section 103 prohibits the possession or sale of any ‘switchblade knife’ within the city.
Greenville – 24-261, Prohibits the carrying, concealed or otherwise of any knife, and further provides that the possession of a “locked blade knife or sporting knife in excess of three inches or greater gives rise to an inference that the device is a weapon used for the infliction of personal injury.”
Christopher Gadsden (1724-1805) of Charleston, South Carolina, was a Patriot, Revolutionary War leader, and the designer of what we now know as the Gadsden Flag. The “Don’t Tread on Me” perspective may be seen in South Carolina knife law which allows a law-abiding person to select a knife based upon his or her individual judgment as to what is appropriate. The state imposes no arbitrary restrictions for instance on blade style or blade length. Knives may be carried openly or concealed.
Local Ordinances, Preemption
The three largest cities in South Carolina have restrictive knife ordinances. Columbia, the state capitol, and Greenville profoundly prohibit the carry of any knives. The Greenville ordinance further provides that the possession of any locked blade or “sporting knife” with a blade of three inches or longer gives rise to the inference that the “device” (knife) is a weapon used for the infliction of personal injury.
Article VIII of the South Carolina State Constitution allows for municipal governance and sets forth certain limitations on the authority granted. Section 14 thereof, captioned ‘General law provisions not to be set aside’ states:
In enacting provisions required or authorized by this article, general law provisions applicable to the following matters shall not be set aside: (1) The freedoms guaranteed every person; (2) election and suffrage qualifications; (3) bonded indebtedness of governmental units; (4) the structure for and the administration of the State’s judicial system; (5) criminal laws and the penalties and sanctions for the transgression thereof; and (6) the structure and the administration of any government service or function, responsibility for which rests with the State government or which requires statewide uniformity.
State law provisions applicable to, among other things, the “freedoms guaranteed every person” and criminal laws and the penalties and sanctions for the transgression thereof’ may not be abrogated or “set aside” by municipal governments. The relevant state statutes listed above are part of Title 16, (Crimes and Offenses), Chapter 23 (Offenses involving weapons), clearly apply to the subject of the Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville ordinances pertaining to knives.
The people of South Carolina wisely intended and provided for statewide uniformity with respect to criminal laws which some city governing bodies have overlooked. AKTI is advocating for a statewide preemption law for knives in South Carolina to eliminate the confusing and aberrant local ordinances.
Law Enforcement – Military
There is an exception in 16-23-460 (Carrying Concealed) and in 16-23-430 (School Grounds) for law enforcement.
South Carolina CCW
There is some incidental benefit to one holding a South Carolina Concealed Weapon license, or a license afforded reciprocity, with respect to possession of a knife with a blade longer than two inches while on school property. Such a knife can be secured in a motor vehicle in the same manner as provided for securing a firearm. There may also be some incidental benefit under 16-23-460 (B) (1), however, the existence and scope of any such benefit has yet to be considered by the courts.
Updated August 1, 2019, by Daniel C. Lawson