Although federal law does not consider pellet guns and other air guns to be firearms, each state writes its own laws, including those that regulate pellet guns. South Carolina Code 16-23-405 on miscellaneous crimes and offenses covers crimes related to carrying “a device that may be used to inflict bodily injury or death,” which includes pellet guns.
Pellet Guns at School
Without the express permission of the authorities in charge of the property, it is illegal to carry or display a pellet gun in public buildings or in areas adjacent to public areas. According to South Carolina Code 16-23-420(a), these areas include "property owned, operated or controlled by a private or public school, college, university, technical college or other post-secondary institution.”
A person carrying a weapon onto public property will be charged with a felony unless he is military personnel, a member of law enforcement, or other person authorized to carry a gun under these circumstances. If convicted, he will be subject to a fine of not more than $5,000 and imprisoned for not more than five years. After conviction, the weapon may be used by the arresting agency or may be sold or destroyed.
Any weapon or object used in violation of this section may be confiscated by the law enforcement division making the arrest.
Using a Pellet Gun in Committing a Crime
A person who uses a pellet gun in committing a crime will have his weapon confiscated. The weapon will not be returned to the person and the agency receiving the weapon may keep it to use or may sell or destroy it. The weapon cannot be disposed of until the outcome of the trial is known.
Shooting at Structures and Vehicles
Shooting at or into buildings, enclosures, cars or equipment is illegal under the South Carolina code and is a felony. A person convicted must be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.
Concealing a Pellet Gun
A person concealing a weapon that causes injury, such as a pellet gun, is guilty of a misdemeanor if convicted. He will forfeit his weapon to the city and be fined not less than $200 and not more than $500 or be imprisoned not less than 30 days.
Carrying such a firearm onto premises where alcohol is served is also a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, the person will be fined not less than $2,000 or imprisoned not less than three years, or both.
Pellet Gun Possession on Private Property
South Carolina code prohibits city or county governments in that state from regulating pellet gun possession. It does, however, allow public or private employers and private property owners to prohibit possession as long as they post the prohibition on their premises.
If the employer or property owner posts that no concealable weapons are allowed, even people with permits to carry a concealed weapon are not permitted to do so on the premises. This decision was rendered concerning Oconee County’s prohibition of guns, including pellet or air guns, at county parks. It is also presumed to be constitutional until a court declares it unconstitutional.
June Farquhar has been writing for newspapers and special publications in California since 1998. She's the recipient of a press club award for organizing and designing a 42-page "Red Ribbon Week" tabloid, which received recognition from the California State Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. Farquhar studied newspaper journalism at Bakersfield College.