The Georgia state line is about 15 miles from Aiken, but in order for a South Carolina concealed-weapons permit holder to carry their weapon in Georgia, they may have to go through Florida – or Utah.

Neither Georgia nor South Carolina recognizes each other’s gun carry license, meaning someone with a South Carolina permit can’t lawfully carry in Georgia and vice-versa.

To obtain a permit in South Carolina, one must take an eight-hour course, pass a written exam testing the permit holder’s knowledge on guns and laws and undergo an extensive background check.

Georgia requires only the background check to obtain a permit, which allows the holder to carry concealed or openly. South Carolina allows only concealed carry.

Chris Medlin is a concealed-weapons permit, or CWP, instructor and owner of Your Best Defense.

“South Carolina doesn’t recognize Georgia (permits) because they don’t require training for a CWP,” he said. “So, if we don’t recognize theirs, in turn, they won’t recognize ours.”

A South Carolina permit holder can still take their gun into Georgia; but if he or she is driving, the gun must be in plain view unless you have a valid permit, Medlin said.

Additionally, permit holders in South Carolina are required to notify law enforcement upon “contact” by an officer that they are a permit holder; in Georgia, they are not.

Other state permits

Certain states have “reciprocity agreements” with other states, meaning they honor the other state’s gun carry permit and permit holders are allowed to carry in the states that are part of the agreement.

The website provides complete and up-to-date gun law information specific to each state.

South Carolina honors permits and licenses from 20 states, while Georgia honors permits and licenses from 28 states, according to the website. Of course, South Carolina and Georgia don’t honor each other’s permits.

For a South Carolina permit holder wanting to carry in Georgia, he or she can get what is called a non-resident permit from one of the states that shares reciprocity with Georgia. Medlin said Florida and Utah are the most popular.

Because Florida recognizes South Carolina’s CWP class as meeting its requirements, a permit holder in South Carolina can complete the application, show proof of his or her South Carolina permit, pay the fee and receive the permit from Florida, which allows him or her to carry in Georgia, Medlin said.

Similar processes are available through other states, with Arizona and Utah also being popular states to get non-resident permits.

South Carolina honors permits from residents of other states, but does not honor non-resident permits from any state. There are two circumstances under which someone can have a Georgia permit and a South Carolina permit.

“The only way someone in another state can get a South Carolina permit is if they own land here or they’re a military member stationed here,” Medlin said. “In my classes, I tell them, ‘Here are the states that will recognize your permit, and since we live so close to Georgia, I strongly recommend you get a permit from one of these other states … so that you’re valid when you go to Georgia.’”

A ‘patchwork’ of laws

Chuck Scott, owner of The Gun Rack on Edgefield Highway, said he frequently gets customers with questions about the different state laws and permit requirements.

There are also laws regarding the sale of guns.

Scott can sell long guns to people from Georgia but not handguns, as federal law dictates you can only purchase handguns in your home state.

“Whatever state your driver’s license says or you own property in, that’s the only place you can buy a handgun,” he said, adding that he disagrees with the law. “You’re not a criminal in South Carolina – why shouldn’t you be able to buy 12 miles away, across the river in Georgia?”

Scott said Georgia definitely has less stringent gun laws than South Carolina, but he believes a South Carolina permit has more “validity” because the holder had to endure the course and exam.

He’d like to see Georgia and South Carolina on the same page, but said he doesn’t expect it to happen soon.

“It’s a patchwork of 50 different laws for all the states,” he said. “The states should get along better. Georgia should bring up their training standards and South Carolina should be more lenient with their permits.”

Medlin said states like Georgia rely more on individual responsibility, but said the background checks in most states are very strict.

“I believe that you ought to get some training in order to keep yourself out of trouble,” he said. “Places like Georgia are relying on the individual to do the research themselves on what the use-of-force rules are, where they can carry and things of that nature.”

Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.