What the law says
As a result of the recent developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, many legal gun owners have asked whether there are any special requirements regarding registering their firearms.
The answer is: no, there are no special requirements for anyone to register their firearms. As outlined below, there exists no state or federal registry, even if the legal gun owner wished to register their guns.
In fact, the State of South Carolina maintains no records with respect to guns and their owners. South Carolina does maintain a registry of all Concealed Weapons Permit holders. But this does not include the actual weapons that a CWP holder has. In South Carolina, the only record that exists with a gun owner’s name, make, model, and serial number is the list of firearms that have been reported as lost or stolen that is maintained by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Department.
Maintain your own records
Additionally, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (“ATF”) does not maintain any records of guns or their owners. If, perhaps, a gun is used in a crime, the ATF can trace the weapon from its manufacturer to the distributor, to the Federal Firearms Licensed dealer (“FFL”), and ultimately to you as the original owner. At that point, if the gun has been lost or stolen, it would be very helpful to the lawful gun owner to have a police report showing that the gun was lost or stolen.
It would be wise to keep that record in a safe place, along with your other valuable records. The original bill of sale showing the make, model, and serial number should also be maintained.
How to protect yourself
If you sell your gun to a private purchaser, it is wise to do so through an FFL dealer. This way, you are certain there will be a requisite background check. This is not a requirement by law, but is the safest way to protect yourself from future issues involving the firearm. If you are selling your firearm to a close acquaintance, family member, or friend who you know can legally buy and possess it, at the very least you would want a bill of sale showing the purchaser’s name, address, price of the sale, make, model, and the serial number of the gun.
Again, this is not a requirement under state or federal law, but it is simply the best way to insulate yourself from criminal or civil liability. As an inherently dangerous product when in the wrong hands, a clear-cut paper trail will assist in cutting all ties to the gun and any liability.
For any questions you may have on legally possessing a firearm in South Carolina, or other firearms law related questions, please feel free to contact U.S. LawShield and your Independent Program Attorney.