South Carolina Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

  • Legal to Carry Concealed with No Permit: Dirks, knives, or razors, unless used to commit or further a crime
  • Legal to Open Carry: All kind of knives
flag of South Carolina
flag of South Carolina

South Carolina Knife Law Overview

South Carolina is a remarkably easy going place on ownership of knives, and the carry of knives at the state level with pretty much all kinds of knives being “reductively” permitted based on the wording of the laws in question. Notice I said at the state level…

Unfortunately, SC is not a preemption state, and unlike some other places without preemption regulations three of the largest cities in the state, including the capitol, Columbia, and the Crown Jewel of the South, Charleston, have taken it upon themselves to institute stringent to outright draconian laws on the carry of knives at the municipal level.

Legal beagle types argue to this very day over how much authority the state actually has to enforce its laws at the municipal level. It is a moot point, though, since if the state does, it chooses not to, and several large towns and cities in SC have their own knife laws you’ll have to learn.

Relevant South Carolina State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • 16-23-405
  • 16-23-430
  • 16-23-460
  • 16-23-490

Every state has its own definitions as to what constitutes a knife or deadly weapon, and South Carolina is no different. 16-23-405 of the South Carolina codes provides the following:

SECTION 16-23-405. Definition of “weapon”; confiscation and disposition of weapons used in commission or in furtherance of crime.

(A) Except for the provisions relating to rifles and shotguns in Section 16-23-460, as used in this chapter, “weapon” means firearm (rifle, shotgun, pistol, or similar device that propels a projectile through the energy of an explosive), a blackjack, a metal pipe or pole, or any other type of device, or object which may be used to inflict bodily injury or death.

Knives certainly fit the latter part of that sentence to a tee. This is a common conception in states that do not explicitly label knives as deadly weapons, or include them into prohibited weapons; include a vague or expansively broad bit of language where anything and everything can be used as or interpreted as a weapon.

The next section on interest is 16-23-430, which covers carrying weapons on school grounds and a little bit about concealed weapons:

SECTION 16-23-430. Carrying weapon on school property; concealed weapons.

(A) It shall be unlawful for any person, except state, county, or municipal law enforcement officers or personnel authorized by school officials, to carry on his person, while on any elementary or secondary school property, a knife, with a blade over two inches long, a blackjack, a metal pipe or pole, firearms, or any other type of weapon, device, or object which may be used to inflict bodily injury or death.

(B) This section does not apply to a person who is authorized to carry a concealed weapon pursuant to Article 4, Chapter 31, Title 23 when the weapon remains inside an attended or locked motor vehicle and is secured in a closed glove compartment, closed console, closed trunk, or in a closed container secured by an integral fastener and transported in the luggage compartment of the vehicle.

(C) A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. Any weapon or object used in violation of this section may be confiscated by the law enforcement division making the arrest.

So, you can carry a knife onto school grounds in SC, so long as its blade is no longer than two inches. This is eminently reasonable as it allows pen knives and other small hobby or utility blades to be carried with no fear of reprisal.

Your larger fare, however, will have to stay out. Now, you obviously can’t just leave it in your car, though; school property, right?

Not necessarily: one perk of obtaining your SC concealed weapons permit is you will be permitted under Article 4, Chapter 31, Title 23 to keep your weapon locked up securely in your vehicle while visiting the school facility. You’ll need to follow the guidelines of provision (B), but you can do it.

We can learn more about the rules and regs for carrying concealed in 16-23-460:

SECTION 16-23-460. Carrying concealed weapons; forfeiture of weapons.

(A) A person carrying a deadly weapon usually used for the infliction of personal injury concealed about his person is guilty of a misdemeanor, must forfeit to the county, or, if convicted in a municipal court, to the municipality, the concealed weapon, and must be fined not less than two hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not less than thirty days nor more than ninety days.

(B) The provisions of this section do not apply to:

(1) A person carrying a concealed weapon upon his own premises or pursuant to and in compliance with Article 4, Chapter 31 of Title 23; or

(2) peace officers in the actual discharge of their duties.

(C) The provisions of this section also do not apply to rifles, shotguns, dirks, slingshots, metal knuckles, knives, or razors unless they are used with the intent to commit a crime or in furtherance of a crime.

So in keeping with the definitions above, you are exempted from the otherwise standing prohibition on the carry of weapons per the statute. It makes you wonder why lawmakers need to do this “double negative” type of wording instead of just saying “it’s allowed”, but what can you do?

But, if you should get swept up in the wrong activities, or it just appears that you were involved, the presence of your knife could be a major issue, resulting in additional punishment or even upgrading the class of your charge entirely. Have a gander at 16-23-490:

SECTION 16-23-490. Additional punishment for possession of firearm or knife during commission of, or attempt to commit, violent crime.

(A) If a person is in possession of a firearm or visibly displays what appears to be a firearm or visibly displays a knife during the commission of a violent crime and is convicted of committing or attempting to commit a violent crime as defined in Section 16-1-60, he must be imprisoned five years, in addition to the punishment provided for the principal crime. This five-year sentence does not apply in cases where the death penalty or a life sentence without parole is imposed for the violent crime.

(B) Service of the five-year sentence is mandatory unless a longer mandatory minimum term of imprisonment is provided by law for the violent crime. The court may impose this mandatory five-year sentence to run consecutively or concurrently.

(D) As used in this section, “firearm” means any machine gun, automatic rifle, revolver, pistol, or any weapon which will, or is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile; “knife” means an instrument or tool consisting of a sharp cutting blade whether or not fastened to a handle which is capable of being used to inflict a cut, slash, or wound.

This is important to wrap your head around: visibly displays a knife during the commission of a violent crime. That’s not you, is it? No sir!

But what if, in pulling your knife to defend yourself from an imminent lethal attack your attacker, seeing the straight silver, gives it up and runs for it.

Trust me; you are likely to wind up in court over the whole affair even if you never nicked him. That is when a prosecutor will be trying to paint you as the bad guy…

No-Go Zones

Courtrooms, government installations and schools, as is so often the case, with schools having two exceptions (assuming you are not badged law enforcement): as detailed above, you can leave your knife secured in your vehicle if you have a concealed weapons permit or you can carry a knife with a blade shorter than two inches.

The real headaches in SC arise from some truly awful laws in some of the biggest and most travelled cities in the state, thanks to the utter lack or preemption and the state government sitting on their duffs and trying not the least little bit to get the states back in alignment.

In point of fact, while the state does not have proper preemption codes or legislation, it seems to me (and again, I am not a lawyer, I am definitely not your lawyer, and I don’t play one on television) that the South Carolina Constitution is pretty dang clear on this issue. Observe:

SC. Const. Article 8, Section 14: General Law Provisions not to be set aside.

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 governmental service or function, responsibility for which rests with the State government or which requires statewide uniformity.

It sure seems to me that all of the above laws I have highlighted in this article would surely apply to “not being set aside” as they relate to the rights of citizens.

At any rate, no such luck, yet, even though activists and citizen’s rights groups labor tirelessly to get the state government to put an end to this nonsense.

Of all the various municipal laws you could potentially run afoul of, the two biggest offenders in the state are Greenville and the state capitol of Columbia, both of which completely prohibit the carry of knives. Yes. Correct. Go read it again.

Talk about some nanny-state B.S. Greenville twists the knife (sorry) even further by specifying that any locking or sporting (?) knife with a blade of three inches or longer presumes that the knife is, explicitly, a weapon for the inflicting of personal injury. Come the eff on…

Columbia, bastion of sissies and academics that it is, prohibits explicitly the carrying of any, and I mean any, knife, dirk, butchers knife, case knife, sword, spear, cane, razor or other similar weapons. Oh, and that means no open carry either, wiseguy. Sigh…

The last and probably the saddest of all of them, Charleston prohibits the concealed carry of any ice pick, knife, or dagger with a blade longer than 3”. Oh, no someone might get cut! Bawwwww!

Bottom Line

South Carolina feels a lot like stymied potential. You can select and carry concealed absolutely any fricking knife you want based on your appraisal of what is best for the situation, at the state level, but local municipalities can cut you off at the knees with their B.S. local declarations of what is or is not okay to have and use.

This means you’ll either need several knives you can swap out as you move through the state in order to remain legal or you’ll have to just take your chances.

3 thoughts on “South Carolina Knife Laws: What You Need to Know”

  1. I’m surprised the city ordinances have not been overturned in court. Considering there is precedent regarding city laws being ruled invalid if it preempts state law as well as limiting a citizen’s freedom of movement throughout the state.

  2. So do the city knife laws apply to CWP holders.
    And as it seems SC will be the next state to pass Constitutional Carry of firearms (passed the house in 2023 session and in Senate for 2024 and Gov. has said he’ll sign)
    wont that make knife laws even more ridiculous.

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