Mandating Registration of Firearms with Law Enforcement

S.943 would require that anyone who purchases a firearm register that firearm’s serial number and their contact information with the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) within 30 days of purchase. Individuals who already own firearms at the time this prospective law is passed would have up to one year to register their firearms. SLED would be tasked with determining an alternate method of registering firearms without serial numbers. Owners of registered firearms would further have to inform SLED in writing of any change in their contact information within ten days of the change.

Under the law SLED would be required to maintain a list of all registered firearms and their owners, and could only release the list upon the request of a law enforcement agency engaged in an investigation, or upon a court order or subpoena. The first quarter of every year SLED would be required to publish a report of the registration information from the previous calendar year.

Any individual who fails to register a firearm according to S.943 would be guilty of a felony and could be punished by either a fine of up to $5,000, and or imprisonment for up to five years.

South Carolinians should not have to register in a state database as a prerequisite to exercising their constitutional rights. Moreover, when gun registries have been tried they have largely been deemed failures. When the policy was attempted in Canada non-compliance was as high as 50 percent. New Zealand abolished the registration of rifles and shotguns in 1983 after police explained the registration was expansive, impractical, and yielded almost nothing of value. Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck has conducted extensive research on the effects of various firearms laws (much of it included in his work Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America) and has found no crime reducing benefits from firearm registration.

(Related H.4564 would also require universal registration of firearms in South Carolina.)

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