COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism can ban pistols from state park buildings, but not from the parkland itself, according to guidance published this month from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Wilson published the expedited opinion after the SCDPRT asked if a state ban against guns in public buildings only applied to park buildings, or if the land is also included in the definition of a public “campus.” It also asked if “right to carry” laws take precedence over if parks can tell employees that guns aren’t allowed, and if the parks are considered “sensitive places” that can restrict firearms.
The questions come in the wake of new state laws that allow someone with a concealed weapons permit to openly carry pistols, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. v. Buren case, which ruled that it was unconstitutional for New York to require a license to carry concealed weapons in public places.
Wilson wrote that he isn’t able to answer more specific questions, pointing to future, expected litigation and laws that will likely define “sensitive places,” which the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly said it wouldn’t do.
It is illegal to have a gun inside public buildings such as schools, colleges and other government structures in South Carolina.
In his answer about if the parks can bar employees from bringing a firearm, Wilson points to a previous opinion that states the South Carolina Department of Corrections couldn’t ban employees from having a gun inside of the employee’s vehicles.
When it comes to if a state park itself can count as a “campus,” Wilson said he doesn’t think it does.
“We understand that the essential question here is whether the statutory prohibition extends to the entire park ‘premises,'” Wilson wrote. “We believe it does not, because otherwise we effectively would be reading previous language regarding adjacent areas back into the statute, as if the legislature’s more recent amendments accomplished nothing. Such a construction cannot stand.”
He said the General Assembly “plainly intended that CWP holders would be able to lawfully carry concealable weapons in South Carolina state parks,” and that “any contrary construction of this statute would frustrate the obvious, specific intent of the General Assembly in codifying this subsection.”