New S.C. Handgun Purchasing Law Drops Minimum Age To 18

This story was written by Jenny Sinkoe, The Daily Gamecock
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford recently signed a bill that lowers the age for owning a handgun from 21 to 18 in the state.

According to Joel Sawyer, spokesman for the governor's office, the bill is in effect as of its signing on April 2.

Federal law still prohibits firearm retailers and dealers from selling handguns to people younger than 21. But the state law now allows individuals to sell handguns to anyone 18 or over.

Sawyer said South Carolina was one of 18 states, and the only one in the South, that hadn't already changed the minimum age for purchasing a gun.

"The governor signed the bill because it doesn't make sense for someone who can fight a war to be prohibited from owning a handgun," Sawyer said.

According to the National Rifle Association, Wyoming has no handgun age requirement. In Montana, it's set at 14; in Vermont, 16.

"This is really nothing new," NRA spokeswoman Ashley Varner said. "There are plenty of states around the country that have an 18 age restriction."

Robert Butler, vice president of GrassRoots GunRights, said that 18-year-olds are adults and shouldn't be treated as second-class citizens.

"There should be no discrimination against young adults," Butler said, "The law has been changed in a number of other states who have no problem giving rights to deserving adults."

Some University of South Carolina students believe that 18-year-olds are too young to own a handgun.

"I think it is more of a bad thing than a good thing because most 18-year-olds are still so immature at that age and wouldn't think before they used it," said Whitney Patterson, a second-year biology student.

Alexandria Garrett, a first-year psychology student, associated owning a handgun with being able to consume alcohol.

"I don't think 18 is an appropriate age to own a gun if you can't even drink at 18," Garrett said. "A gun is just as much, if not more of, a responsibility."

Adam Manning, a fourth-year business student, said he thinks 18-year-olds should be allowed to own handguns.

"They are legally adults and therefore, the Second Amendment should apply. All adult American citizens have the right to own a gun," Manning said.

Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens and retired police officer, had filed the bill to help out a national gun wholesaler located in Lexington County where employees younger than 21 were filling orders over the phone. A legal opinion by state Attorney General Henry McMaster had said that was not allowed because of their age and Pitts argued it would cost half the company's workers their jobs.

Pitts said gun retailers would still have to comply with state and federal firearms laws.

He said he sees no need to change the minimum age of 21 for a concealed weapons permit in South Carolina.
© 2008 The Daily Gamecock via U-WIRE